Monday, 2 December 2013

Migration and Female Genital Mutilation

The problems of excision and other traditional practices which negatively affect migrant women and children are exacerbated due to the displacement of these populations.
FGM is condemned by most of the governments of the countries involved, which are both countries of origin and countries of destination.

FGM remains an on going practice in many countries of the world. It is a destructive practice and should be stopped. The role of the family is crucial in having these women adapt to the customs of their new country of residence. Mutilations drain women’s energy and the resources that they could use to learn the language of their new country, look for work and send their children to school.

FGM can be an obstacle to social integration for these migrant women. This is one of the reasons why fighting FGM should be a priority.

 Even for young girls born or raised in Europe – where prevalence is fairly high – excision is considered as a right of passage and not subjecting oneself to this procedure may destroy interfamilial links. For 30 years a number of actions and strategies have been undertaken in Europe to decrease the prevalence of FGM.

In order to protect young girls the work that has been done by civil society must be acknowledged and authorities must be involved. Many countries have begun to implement measures: France, Italy and Portugal in particular. It is therefore important to draw lessons from the actions undertaken in European countries.

What can we do and what are the actions and the measures that work?

Campaign to bring together all stakeholders, and for this we need to build and strengthen women’s capacities and empower migrant women so that they are in a better position to take charge of their own health and that of their families, so that they are able to express their needs and take part in important decisions related to their children.

This also entails literacy campaigns, sending children to school, mastering the language, having access to the economy, so as to have necessary financial resources. All of these social determinants need to be taken into account to fight this problem, so that migrant women are in a better position to shoulder their responsibilities and combat the problem. Only if women become empowered and autonomous will the message be heard and have a positive effect.

Women who come from migrant communities need to know where to turn if they need assistance for themselves and their families in terms of health care and other forms of assistance. All of this needs to be part of an integration policy, not only in the country of destination but also in the countries of origin.

A lot of work has been done in the countries of origin of migrant women with a view to informing and empowering them so that they can take charge of the problem themselves.

Remember it is an uphill battle, because it has to do with the most intimate part of the human being, and it is a battle where the victims do not necessarily want to be advised or helped by people from the outside. So tread with caution.

There are communities that systematically reject external help because they feel that they have been wounded and simply need to survive.

We need to take into account all of these cultural and traditional elements that justify the practice of FGM.

We need to relay the actions taken by parliaments, governments and by religious leaders in the countries of origin because the migrant communities are often not aware of what is being done in their own country against FGM. If new laws are passed it is important to inform them of this.

Lets all fight FGM together and see the end to it.

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