Prospective law against female genital mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan
Campaign against FGM receives support from deputies and government officials
Legal prohibition of female genital mutilation is becoming likely after members of the regional parliament and government official expressed their support for the campaign “Stop FGM in Kurdistan “. The women’s commission in the Kurdish regional government has already endorsed the demand for a law to prohibit FGM. Support for the legislation also came from prominent politicians in the region, among them the Secretary of State for women, Dr Jinan Qasim; spokeswoman of the women’s parliamentary group, Pachschan Zangana; and the President of Parliament, Adnan Mufti. The official legislation process is expected to begin after the parliament’s summer recess. According to WADI’s survey conducted in 116 villages in the Kurdish region, 65% of the 3665 women interviewed were mutilated. It is possible that the bill against FGM will be introduced to the parliament together with additional legal initiatives concerning domestic violence against women.
Stop FGM in Kurdistan : 14.000 supporters
This legislation was initiated by campaign “Stop FGM in Kurdistan” (www.stopfgmkurdistan.org). The campaign was launched in April with an appeal to the public that quickly attracted more than 14,000 supporters. “Stop FGM in Kurdistan” is an association of local women’s and human rights organizations, doctors and lawyers, supported by the German-Austrian relief organization WADI. In 2005 WADI publicized the existence of female genital mutilation in Northern Iraq, as its staff members discovered it in their work with women in the region. “Until then, FGM was considered an African problem”, explains Suaad Abdulrahman, WADI’s project coordinator for women’s empowerment. “There’s a taboo on the topic, which caused women to keep silent about their problems.”
Start of a Public Discussion
This has changed. The campaign made the problem public through ads in local newspapers and television spots. Inequality of women and violence against them are now publicly discussed and debated in Kurdish Northern Iraq . Recently, pictures on the internet showing the murder of a Yezidian woman received media’s attention. So-called “honour violence”, like genital mutilation, is a common and nevertheless silenced problem of the region. The Kurdish regional government has now also announced a legislative initiative concerning this issue.
Prohibition is not enough
For the campaign, a legal prohibition of female genital mutilation will be a great success. Nevertheless, the organizations involved agree that legislation alone is not enough. FGM is a deeply rooted practice which is justified both by tradition and Islam. The legal prohibition, therefore, must be supplemented by education and support. The causes and impacts of FGM should be examined. A large-scale scientific survey about genital mutilation will start this summer thanks to funds from Swiss Caritas. The survey will be directed and administrated by WADI. Already at present WADI runs an education project, focusing on women in rural areas. The creation of experts’ team is now being discussed with representatives of the Ministries for Health, Education, Religious Affairs and Law, to coordinate the battle against FGM in schools and hospitals, media campaigns and through the mosques.
The success of the campaign so far was reached by democratic means that demonstrate the possibilities for civil society initiatives in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Falah Muradkin, project manager for WADI in Iraq , explained that “never before a petition to the parliament received such positive responds. From the beginning both parliament and government officials were responsive to public pressure, and the local media also paid attention to the campaign".
Cheman Rashid, representative of WADI in the Kurdish capital Arbil pointed out that the campaign is not only important for Iraqi Kurdistan: “There are indications that FGM is common in the whole region. In other countries like Syria or Iran , however, no free public sphere exists. Many women from other countries in the region contact us to wish us success, because they hope that similar initiatives might also develop in their countries and places”.
Critic of the UN
WADI is surprised by the absence of any support for this campaign from the UN that has declared the struggle against FGM a high priority. WADI thus calls the UN, the European Union and other states and donors to assist this campaign with logistic and financial support.
By: A. Vormann on behalf of Wadi