All posts by ahoehlein

Whose Culture Is This Anyways?

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumsion, is a procedere in which the female genitals or cut or ripped without medical cause.

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These procedures often vary with ethnicity and can range from harming the clitoris to sewing shut the vaginal opening. This can then lead to numerous painful and dangerous side effects, including chronic menstrual pain, recurring infection, difficulties in childbirth, and loss of sexuality. Unfortunately it is estimated that 3 million girls a year are at risk of falling victim to this fate. Although FGM occurs mostly in differnt African and Middle Eastern communities, it has been documented in 30 countries and is becoming a global issue. 

Even countries that have banned FGM find themsleves struggling with how to actually prevent it from happeneing. The 65,000 women in Germany who have been affected by FGM, despite its ban, are a perfect example FGMs global reach.

So how is this happening? 

Well, the answer lies in the portion of Germany’s migrants that are coming from countries where FGM is consdiered a rite of passage or a prerequisite for marriage, including girls who are born in bi-national partnerships.

  In 2016, an estimated 280,000 migrants found refuge in Germany from conflict in Africa and the Middle East. As a result, Germany experienced a spike in the number of girls who underwent Female Genital Mutilation. 

According to the non-profit women’s right organization, Terre des Femmes, “some 15,500 girls living in Germany are in danger of being forced to undergo FGM.” The majority of these women migrated from Eritrea, Somalia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Iraq, and because Germany has a ban against FGM, families often send their daughters back to their home country to have a “vacation circumcision”

So how can this type of loophole be prevented? 

 Well, so far in Germany, authorities have been granted permission to take away the passports of parents who are suspected to be taking their daughters abroad with the intent of having the procedure performed legally elsewhere. However, an article published in 2017 states that according to German law, “FGM is already illegal even when it is carried out abroad…. in order to deter parents from taking their daughters back to their home countries to have the operation carried out there”.

Another challenge Germany faces trying to combat the proliferation of FGM’s is the actual identification of FGM taking place. Most of the time the victims of Female Genital Mutilation are too young to expose their offenders, especially because they tend to be a part of the family, if not their own parents. Despite this fact, victims often are left responsible to initiate the prosecution process. 

Currently the only professionals that would be able to identify a girl who had undergone  FGM are pediatricans. However, due to patient-physician confidentiality, physicians cannot report a case of FGM to any form of authority. 

So how can help be provided to victims in need? Well, one source/a German task force suggests two different strategies; “compulsory check-ups that include the examination of the girl’s genital intactness and the implementation of the obligation to report in case of detected mutilations.” Both of these policies remove the pressure to speak out from the victim and provide them with a safe place that will lend them a watchful eye, ready to give them the help they need.