Friday, March 6, 2009

Female Genital Mutilation

I have just come across an article in my local newspaper, mind you, it is a few days old now.

Page 17 Tuesday March 3 2009 The North West Advocate.
A Fairfax Community Network.

TITLE: Long fight to halt genital mutilation.

The lead paragraph reads:
It’s 10 years since the sensitive issue of female genital mutilation was first addressed as a community health issue in Victoria, (Australia) but it’s an anniversary that is unlikely to be formally acknowledged.
By Dinah Arndt.

I at first thought I had read it wrong, but no, it was right.
It goes on to say that; when doctors first became aware of this practice they were shocked and unsure how to deal with it. And so apparently was the community.

However, in 1996, the State Government passed a law outlawing this practice, but unfortunately, it went on especially with newly arriving migrants, and I suspect within families that had been here for some time, and this obscene practice, I believe, was and still is, being performed by the age old custom of the elderly women in the family on young girls.
However, the criminalization did not help the women who were already affected by this genital mutilation.

Says the report: “That’s where the Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program (FARREP) came in. In 1998, organisations such as Footscray’s Western Region Health Care (WRHC) and Women’s Health West (WHW) hired FARREP workers to support and advocate for culturally appropriate access to health services as well as prevention of the practice.”

Female genital mutilation is not exclusive to any race, country or religion, there are many people who have migrated to Australia and in particular in Victoria, where it is practiced, and particularly on very young girls, some only 4 years old. See the pictures.

One of the workers from FARREP said they hired a bilingual African worker, mainly because many women affected were from Horn of Africa, and they were not visiting doctors.

Now, I believe that when people are in refugee centres or on a list to migrate here, then part of the criteria should most definitely be a health check. If the women has been mutilated it should be recorded…after all, when she has children she is going to need extra medical attention. And the female children should also be examined, if they are already mutilated, then it should be recorded, if it has not been done, then record that too. Why? Because in the future there will be a record of it when that girl has to get any medical assistance for infection or child bearing, then charges should be laid.

It is pointless expecting these women to run to the nearest authority to report this happening to their female children, as they would be more scared of their husband or father, especially if it goes against ‘the honor’ of the family by bring shame upon them.
It is quite often the husband’s mother and female relatives that perform this mutilation on the female children, often when the mum is not around and yeah, for sure, we can see the poor mum running and telling when she finds out, can’t we!

The article goes on to say; “the program worked with affected communities to educate about the serious complications that could arise during and after genital mutilation”.

FARREP builds strong relationships with women from affected communities by priding services such as antenatal clinics, and information sessions for women’s groups tackling legal, social and medical issues.

So ok, it is good that the education is there, and I have nothing but praise for the FARREP, WRHC, and WHW groups. I have in the past been assisted by the latter myself when I was in a domestic violence situation.

A WHW worker says “it has been a long fight against this practice, and that they are building on decades of action by women in those countries that perform the mutilation”.

Apparently a lot of progress has been made with the communities to prevent the practice of mutilating female children’s genitals. Even though Dr. Gregory from WHW “wouldn’t be at all surprised if the practice was still going on”.

Educating the medical fraternity on cultural sensitivities and additional complications particularly during childbirth has been an important aspect of FARREP. However, there is an ongoing need for education in the medical field as Doctors and nurses enter the workforce….shouldn’t this now be part of the training?

Dr Gregory said it would also make sense to hire a male FARREP worker to talk with men from affected communities. “In short, she said, the work would continue for years to come”. I have no doubt about this whatsoever.

So does this mean more tax money, more bi-lingual/multi-lingual interpreters or workers to educate the men from the various countries with many different languages?
If this is the case in Victoria, I just wonder how prevalent it is within Australia as a whole.

Is there no end to this madness?

A few of my thoughts.
I know one woman in her mid 40’s from a Nth Eastern region of Africa, raised as an ‘Orthodox Christian,’ but turned Pentecostal in her teen years, when she found Jesus and was saved, later marrying a man from the Pentecostal denomination and the same region as her. One day we had a conversation about muslims and some of their practices and oppression of women and the genital mutilation of the children etc., and I expressed my horror at the practice. I had no idea whatsoever, that it would have been done to her as a child/early teen because of being raised in a family of Christians, but yes, it had. I think I turned a paler shade of white than I already am. She said it was done to all the girls …but… “only a little bit, like the clitoris and the enjoyment of sex came from within the heart and the mind, because of the love between the husband and wife and the love of Jesus”. (Yeah right, like He condones mutilating the body).
At this I balked, and asked her to please leave Jesus and religion out of this. I also asked her what she meant by being ‘saved at last’ by becoming Pentecostal and that her mum and relatives had not found Jesus by remaining Orthodox Christian. I gotta tell ya, I was somewhat offended at this as it implied that we “normal” Christians have no real relationship with Jesus and therefore are not really “saved”. However, I did not want to get into an argument over this bit of semantics or the meaning of what she had just said. But it did explain to me why she was constantly asking me to accompany her and her family to their church, of which I always decline because I do not belong to any denomination, nor do I ever intend to again. I also, so much, wanted to ask her if she ever intended on a similar procedure being done to her then 2 year old daughter when she was a bit older, after all, being in a Western Country with such loose morals and standards, surely she would want to take some measures against her only daughter becoming promiscuous. I thought it better to keep my mouth shut, but in hindsight, I am sorry I did not ask her.
This whole thing is really disturbing to me, because I was naively under the impression it was JUST muslims who practiced female genital mutilation. So, even if muslim immigration were to be curbed or stopped it would still be happening in other cultures.
Is there no end to this madness?
Now, in my case, 30 years ago, I had my son circumcised, for health reasons and because his father was. (NOTE*** It had absolutely nothing to do with any religious belief whatsoever.) This was the normal done thing to the majority of Aussies, as it was a precautionary measure, also a health measure for the benefit of both the man and women. If an adult male had to have this procedure done, due to the foreskin not retracting and causing major pain and bleeding during sex then it was extremely painful. I believe male circumcision was gradually fazed out due to some human rights group complaining it was barbaric, and it became increasingly difficult to find a doctor who would perform this procedure. Incidentally, it was generally done on a male baby when he was 7-8 days old, because there is some hormone in the blood at this age, which is supposed to prevent any type of shock or infection if the procedure has been done correctly and in proper hygienic conditions. (I cannot provide any more details on this but I read it somewhere in conjunction with some religious documentation with words to the effect that this is what is in the Bible. So how would they have known this medical fact way back then if it was not proscribed by God Himself.)

I dare say that if I was capable of having children today and I gave birth to a son, yes, I would have him circumcised, for the health benefits for the man himself and for the health safety of any female partners. Circumcision of a male child is a completely different thing to mutilation of the female genitals, I might add. The worst cases of FGM I have read about and seen the pictures of is when the clitoris is cut off and the whole of the labia is cut off and sewn up, or the labia is completely sewn shut after the cliterectomy except for a tiny hole for the urine or menstrual blood to pass through, and when the child is married off at age 9 or older, the husband ever so lovingly just plunges forcefully into her causing an agonizing pain and immediate medical attention, if she is lucky. This can also be read about in the book INFIDEL by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

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