Archive for the 'culture' Category

11
Mar
08

Too Sexy for my Burka

Regardless of the title, this video has a serious message.

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[Update 4] Texas: Dis-Honor killing of two sisters

Muslim Gang Rape an Epidemic

Women Should Be Treasured Not Shamed, Valued Not Blamed.

A Living Hell

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar Or The Disgusting Underbelly of The Beast

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21
Jan
08

Niger: Where Childhood Ends On the Marriage Bed

Niamey

Fifteen-year-old Hadjo Garbo’s child-like features belie a history more tragic and life-altering than many adults four times her age will have experienced.Two years ago this petite girl, who likes to fiddle with her elaborately braided hair and once dreamed of being a housewife, was married to one of the older men in her village in the Dosso region of southwest Niger. She was just 13 years old.

The marriage was consummated, and by 14 she was pregnant with her first child. But before her 15th birthday she had lost the baby – and her husband.

Hadjo’s anatomy proved unready for the task of delivering a baby and after an excruciating three-day labour, the unborn foetus was cut out of her, stillborn.

The horrific labour left the girl with what gynaecologists call an obstetric fistula, a tearing of the tissue that develops when blood supply to the tissues of the vagina and bladder and/or rectum is cut off during prolonged obstructed labour. The condition mostly affects child victims of underage marriage.

Hadjo was ostracised by her husband and his family, and forced to secrete herself away from the prying eyes and laughter of her former school friends.

Not pedophilia

In many Western and Muslim countries what happened to Hadjo would be called paedophilia and the male attacker would be arrested and imprisoned.

In Niger that word is only applied to men who have sex with girls outside of marriage, said Idrissa Djibrilla, head of the Niger branch of Defence for Children International (DCI), a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

“Here we only talk about paedophilia when sex happens outside marriage,” Djibrilla said.

“If we look at it from the biological, physiological point of view, it’s clear that at nine, 10, 11 or 12 years old a girl simply is not ready for sex and child bearing. That’s the reality, but it is hard to make our communities understand.”

The effects can be long-lasting and extend beyond physical health, human rights workers and psychologists who have studied child brides say.

Forced sexual intercourse, denial of freedom and domestic violence are “frequently” found in child marriages, the long-term effects of which are poorly understood, according to a confidential NGO study shown to IRIN.

Eventually, the girls are likely to be abandoned when their polygamous husbands take another young bride. In Niger, women have little or no rights after a divorce.

Widespread problem

Hadjo’s case is not an isolated one in Niger. The problem affects all the regions of the country, Djibrilla said. At least a third of girls are married by the age of 15, and 75 percent before the age of 18, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

In reality, activists say 13 is a common age for marriage, and some girls are married off as young as nine or 10. They will be forced to have sex even before their first period.

Negotiations over the Family Code (Code de la Personne et de la Famille) – a piece of domestic legislation which would have defined the legal relationship between husbands and wives and children and parents, and included a legal minimum age for marriage and sexual intercourse – collapsed in 2006.

According to Alice Kang, a University of Wisconsin researcher who studied the process, the Family Code was “vilified and abandoned” after mainstream Islamist associations lobbied against it.

“Women’s NGOs [in Niger] sometimes compete with each other and therefore do not always get along together… the influence of religious leaders on politics is, more often than not, indirect… and the Family Code was an extremely contentious issue to the point of being a taboo subject in certain circles,” she wrote in a report after conducting research in Niger in 2006.

Reticence

Diadié Boureima, deputy representative of UNFPA in Niger, said the government is “a bit reticent” about tackling early marriage “because of the religious reaction” and said if things are going to change “the ‘marabout’ (religious leaders) will have to be involved.”

“If there was a law against paedophilia it would be applied here,” said Boureima. “But, instead, Islam has legalised it by saying the Prophet had a nine-year-old wife, even though that marriage was not consummated.”

(Page 2 of 2)

UNFPA wants the age of marriage to be changed to 18. It says that would give girls longer in school, give their bodies time to develop, and allow them to reach adulthood. It would also help curb Niger’s runaway demographic growth by reducing a girl’s reproductive lifespan.

Keeping girls in school has wider benefits, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In a 2001 study, the agency found that women with seven or more years of education marry an average of four years later and have 2.2 fewer children than those with no education.

In Niger, only 15 percent of adult women are literate, and less than one-third of girls enrol in primary school.

Compromise with religious leaders needed

There are also economic reasons behind early marriages, Boureima noted. “There is the chance that the girl will go to a better home or just that the marriage will be celebrated with a good party and food,” he said.

University of Wisconsin’s Kang noted in her report that it is not just men who will have to be convinced of the need for change.

“I was… surprised to learn that there were some women who opposed the Family Code and publicly demonstrated against it, and the legal experts with whom I spoke emphasised that I study this,” she noted.

DCI’s Djibrilla – like all the officials IRIN spoke with – insisted nonetheless that reaching a compromise with religious officials is the most important part of ending the practice. “We have advocated that religious officials can perform marriage ceremonies between adults and children, but that people should not consummate the marriage until the child reaches puberty,” he said.

“The real problem is that at the national level the government is afraid to take certain measures,” he added.

Hadjo’s story

Hadjo’s story does at least have a somewhat happy ending. She underwent two operations for the fistula and spent 12 months at a recovery centre in Niamey, and is ready to go home again.

Hadjo’s husband abandoned her. Her father, a peasant farmer, insists that even if he were still around she would not be going back to him.

“No more husband,” the father insisted. “I was ignorant before but now I know what we did was very wrong.”

However, she will not be able to have any more children, a grave condition in a country where women’s fertility is prized. Unlikely to be able to remarry and without having completed her education, her future might yet turn out to be just as difficult as her past.

This is the second story in a three-part series on maternal mortality and child marriage in Niger

AllAfrica

 

09
Jan
08

Britain: Female Genital Mutilation

The unspeakable practice of female circumcision that’s destroying young women’s lives in Britain

The girl is 15 years old but looks much younger. Her face has the fine-boned elegance typical of her native Somalia, but her accent belongs to the streets of East London. She is plainly terrified. That much is clear from the way she avoids eye contact and constantly fidgets in her chair.

“Promise you won’t print my name or anything?” she implores repeatedly. “Promise no one will ever know that I’ve spoken to you? If people in my community find out, they’ll say that I’ve betrayed them and I’ll have to run away. And anyway, I don’t want my parents to be sent to jail.”

With great courage, this British-Somali girl – she asks that we call her “Lali” – is about to describe a barbaric act of ritualised cruelty which has been perpetrated against her. Knowing the danger to which she is exposing herself, her anxiety is entirely understandable.

For by speaking about it, Lali will break the ultimate taboo among Britain’s 600,000 ethnic Africans. In Norway, where this brutal act is also prevalent, a young Somali woman was recently beaten, almost to death, for talking to TV documentary programme-makers.

It is known by a variety of names, the most common of which are female genital mutilation (FGM), female circumcision, or simply “cutting” – a word which somehow conveys the raw pain its prepubescent victims suffer.

Most people will be unfamiliar with this practice, which involves removing part or all of the clitoris, the surrounding labia (the outer part of the vagina) and sometimes the sewing up of the vagina, leaving only a small opening for urine and menstrual blood.

It is carried out for a variety of cultural reasons. Such is the secrecy that surrounds the practice that even those aware that it occurs in large swathes of Africa and Asia will be shocked to learn that it is prevalent in Britain.

During a highly disturbing, four-month investigation, however, we uncovered evidence that thousands of British-African girls, in towns and cities throughout the country, have been forcibly “cut”.

By conservative estimates, 66,000 women and girls living in Britain have been mutilated. This figure, accepted by the Metropolitan Police, came in a report by a volunteer organisation funded by the Department of Health and carried out with academics from the London School of Tropical Hygiene and the City University.

And thousands more girls are at imminent risk as families club together to fly professional “cutters” from Africa to Britain.

These women “elders” perform the crude operation for up to £40 a time, often on kitchen tables or floors, without anaesthetic, using filthy, blunt knives, razor blades or scalpels.

Many readers will be distressed by our report, but this practice is an abomination which has no place anywhere, let alone in a civilised society, and if it is to be expunged then this is a story that must be told.

There is no way of escaping the unpalatable terminology, just as there is no way for girls like Lali to escape the unsterile knife which cuts them as they are held down and which will result in a lifetime of physical and psychological pain.

Some people say the practice is to increase the sexual pleasure of the man, but this is only one appallingly outdated reason why many womenfolk from 28 African and some Middle Eastern countries, most of which have sizeable representation in Britain, are treated like this.

It is also done to demonstrate their virginity on their wedding night; and because “uncut” girls with the ability to enjoy love-making are considered more likely to be promiscuous, unhygienic, and prone to diseases such as Aids.

Attempts are also made to justify this iniquitous practice on religious grounds. Some hard-line Muslims insist that women must undergo genital cutting to remain faithful to the purest teachings of Islam – although, in truth, it is not even mentioned in the Koran, and only ambiguously in the Hadith (a collection of oral traditions about the life of the prophet Mohammed).

Several leadings Imams have openly condemned the practice. This, though, does not deter its proponents, who maintain that it is their inalienable right to live according to their traditional beliefs and customs, rather than conform to British values. Indeed, some argue that the freedom to carry out FGM is a fundamental principle of our multi-cultural society.

Whatever the arguments, the fact is that genital mutilation is a reality, and the Metropolitan police is so concerned that it recently set up a special unit to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators. Heading the unit is Detective Inspector Carol Hamilton, herself a mother, who was horrified when she discovered what was happening to other people’s daughters.

The Met team also educates regional police forces about FGM, and speaks to mosques, community groups and local authorities.

Usually their visits are well-received, but we found that at least one London council declined to publish material highlighting the suffering and danger the practice causes – for fear of offending ethnic African residents.

This kind of attitude incenses Detective Inspector Hamilton. “We are all becoming very culturally sensitive,” she says. “People are a bit frightened of saying ‘You can’t do this here’ because people shoot back with ‘But it’s our culture’.

“But it’s not: this is just plain cruel. I won’t be put off by the politically correct argument. We have to be seen to be strong on this. I don’t care about human rights – I care about the rights of the child. Everything else has to go out of the window.

“We have one rule in child protection: the child is of paramount importance. I stick by that firmly.”

Together with the Waris Dirie Foundation¹, an international campaign group formed by the Somali-born supermodel who suffered genital mutilation as a five-year-old child, the Met announced a £20,000 reward last July for information leading to the conviction of anyone who performs or abets cutting.

Under the 2003 Female Genital Mutilation Act, those involved could be jailed for 14 years. Yet the fact that no one has been prosecuted says much about the problems the police are facing.

“There are thousands of girls being cut in your country,” says Waris Dirie spokesman Walter Hutschinger. “We are sure it’s going on, and on a very big scale. Your law is one of the most comprehensive in the world, but it is useless if nobody will help to implement it.

“We have been contacted by girls from all parts of Britain – London, Cardiff, Sheffield, Birmingham, Liverpool, Reading, Slough, Milton Keynes, Crawley – anywhere there are big African communities.

“Many of these girls know they are about to be cut and are desperate for help, but they are even more afraid of what might happen to them if they come out in the open.

“One young woman wrote recently to tell us that she was about to be taken home to Somalia to be cut, and she was terrified because her older sister had died after cutting. [To avoid detection, the mutilation is often done in a girl’s native country.]

“She was thinking of running away – but she didn’t know where she could go or what she would do. The girl says genital mutilation has destroyed her family. We wrote back offering a meeting, but she has not been back in touch.’

During our investigation, we found similar difficulty finding girls willing publicly to condemn a practice whose “virtues” are impressed upon them from infancy so that they are effectively brainwashed into believing it to be an essential step towards womanhood.

Lali is so determined that other girls should be spared the misery she has endured since the cutter came to call four years ago that, last week, she bravely told us her story.

Continued.

¹Waris Dirie Foundation

Also see @ Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams:

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation: Part 2

Female Genital Cutting

Documentary on female genital cutting H/T drdapo


Related: Fighting Female Circumcision & Debating It’s Religious Ruling




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