Thursday, 16 April 2009
Campaign against female genital cutting and forced marriage
I was first alerted to this campaign by my friend Max, from Clarity2009. His post made me look further into what was going on.
The motivation behind the drive is to raise awareness. 100,000 posters and brochures are being distributed to organisations concerned with women's rights, equal opportunities, and the information covering FGM is being given to centres for mother and child welfare. In both, the legal situations are outlined and in both they implore young women to break the taboos and the silence. The graphics were chosen with care and are deliberately austere. The brochure "L'excision est un crime" describes clearly the procedures of FGM and the medical consequences.
France does address these problems quite well. According to the brochure it is the only country to have taken cases of FGM to court, the first time in 1979. In addition French administration has agreed that the costs of reconstructive surgery will be covered by the state. Dr Pierre Foldès is no longer the only surgeon to offer this service. He has trained doctors who now perform the same operation in other parts of France, and also in Africa. The procedure is mentioned in the leaflet being distributed.
The UK has had campaigns specifically against FGM, most notably two years ago when the police offered a reward of £20,000 for information regarding anyone involved in FGM. It was conducted in the summer when so many girls are taken back to Africa for this mutilation. Unfortunately though, there is no recognition for reconstructive surgery, and the best the National Health Service can offer is reversal, which can be very helpful in some cases but it's not the same thing. Anyone unconvinced that reconstructive surgery is needed, should read Papillon's story about why she decided she would go through with it. It gives a real insight into the psychological consequences that she suffered as a result of her mutilation as a child.
In the USA, Clitoraid.org does offer the reconstructive surgery, currently for $1000. Dr Marci Bowers has trained with Dr Foldès and now practises in Jamaica and the USA. I am rather uncomfortable that Clitoraid was founded by the Raelian movement, you know, the people who claimed to have cloned human beings. That does worry me.
For all the publicity, I'm not convinced that the French campaign will address the issues so very successfully. The way they are presented, they seem to be preaching to the converted. What they have to do is win over the hearts and minds of the parents of the girls who will suffer. Distributing leaflets to women's groups doesn't seem the best way, although it's a step, but I'd be happier if they were making efforts to speak not only to those who may spot the abuse but also to the people who ultimately are the decision makers for their daughters.