Police in Bremen, Germany, raided an apartment recently not to arrest any terrorists but rather to prevent two of its occupants from being terrorized by another form of barbarism: female genital mutilation. In what has been described as “a first” by a German women’s organization, authorities in the northern, port city were able to intervene and thwart a planned, female circumcision of two girls aged one and four. The infants, taken into state care, were to have undergone the horrifying procedure in their 25-year-old mother’s native country of Gambia at a female circumcision ritual.
However, the girls’ German father discovered the mother’s gruesome plan when he returned home one evening and found two packed bags and his daughters missing. Very fortunately for the girls, their father was vehemently opposed to the hideous ordeal his wife of five years, whom he had married “according to Muslim law”, was planning for them. Already aware of the father’s fierce opposition to her scheme, the mother had hidden the intended victims among countrymen at another apartment, from which at least the one-year-old was slated to leave the next day for the West African country.
An ensuing, loud argument between the two parents about the mother’s scheme luckily drew a visit from the police, now keen on finding the two little girls. The mother, however, refused to help the authorities and was taken into custody for obstructing police. But other Gambian women indicated where the toddlers were hidden, leading to their timely rescue.
It is estimated that 30,000 women living in Germany have undergone female genital mutilation, most in their native countries, and are part of the one hundred and thirty million women worldwide who have suffered the same, tragic fate. In addition, three million females, mostly girls aged four to ten, but babies as well, undergo this savage “operation” every year, while in Germany alone as many as 5,000 girls are in danger annually of joining that number.
According to one German publication, female genital mutilation is carried on especially in Africa where about 90 to 100 per cent of the women in such countries as Somalia, the Sudan and Gambia are circumcised. It is also practiced in the Middle Eastern countries of Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, but does not exist in any North African country except for Egypt. Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia also subject women to it. But while Muslim women are the main victims of female genital mutilation, African animist tribes, Coptic Christians and Ethiopian Jews also are guilty of the horrid practice, which pre-dates Islam. As well, many of these countries have launched their own campaigns to eradicate this terrible social blight.
The reasons given for the revolting practice are that it is traditional and prevents women from having sexual feelings, thus “saving” them from their own sexuality and leaving them “pure” for a future husband. An impure, or uncircumcised, woman would never be able to marry in some of the above-mentioned countries’ cultures. The practice, therefore, ensures the girl’s future standing as a wife and mother.
Female genital mutilation first came to the attention of western nations, including the United States and Canada, in the 1990s. Immigrants and refugees from the approximately 25 countries where it is practiced brought this anti-civilizational custom with them. One writer stated that hardly anything at that time shook western states more deeply than the realization that this brutal habit was being carried on within their borders.
Since then, western countries have introduced legal measures to fight the practice. It is now grounds for an asylum claim in some industrial states. As well, in 1999 in France, for the first time a woman was also given a long, prison sentence for having performed “innumerable” female circumcisions, while the parents were given probation. France and Germany have also made it illegal not only to have the offensive procedure done within their borders, but also abroad, since parents were flying their daughters back to their native countries after its proscription in the West.
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