The Malta Independent 13 July 2024, Saturday
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Zero tolerance to female genital mutilation

Saturday, 7 February 2015, 11:12 Last update: about 10 years ago

Female genital mutilation – also known as female circumcision – was made illegal in Malta in January of last year. Yesterday was World Day against FGM.

The law came into effect after parliamentary secretary for health, Chris Fearne had pushed forward a private members bill back in 2013. The House overwhelmingly backed the bill, which made it illegal to practice the horrific ‘tradition’ and made anyone who travelled to other countries to carry it out abroad liable to criminal action in Malta.

FGM is practiced in many countries in Africa and the Middle East. It is an obvious fact that some of the migrants that end up in Malta might have come from countries or regions that still practice the awful barbarous ritual.

FGM is a centuries-old practice stemming from the belief that circumcising girls controls women’s sexuality and enhances fertility. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines FGM as: “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Doctors, social workers and all other professionals who might come into contact with cases of FGM, forced marriage or forced sterilisation are obliged to report such cases, but the question must be asked; is it possible to carry out examinations of young girls or women here?

There have been reported cases, most notably when women are in labour, or if there is some case of infection that requires urgent medical attention. More often than not, those infections are after effects of FGM in the first place.

African countries have begun to realise that there are no health benefits to this procedure whatsoever. But it also a case of changing attitudes. FGM – apart from causing problems to women bearing children – also reduces the ability for sexual arousal and climax. In short, it is utterly terrible and amounts to torture, lifelong problems, removal of dignity and is barbaric. A report published by UNHCR Malta in March shows that the proportion of female asylum seekers from FGM-practising countries out of the total number of female applicants was the highest in Malta (more than 90%). The WHO fact sheet on FGM highlights the practice is mostly carried out in African countries by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18% of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and this trend is increasing.

FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. There can be no room for it in Malta. We must have a zero tolerance approach.



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