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Act Now to Oppose Russian Resolution on Traditional Values: Universality of Human Rights at Stake!

September 6, 2012

At the current session of the UN Human Rights Council, Russia has tabled a resolution seeking to promote “traditional values” as a basis for human rights. Numerous UN experts have emphasised that traditional values are frequently invoked by States to justify human rights violations, such as family violence, marital rape, and forced marriage. A preliminary report of the Advisory Committee is highly critical of a traditional values approach to human rights, calling traditional values “vague, subjective and unclear” and noting that “those most marginalized and disenfranchised have the most to lose from a traditional values approach to human rights”.

UN human rights experts set out countries’ obligations to tackle harmful practices such as FGM and forced marriage

December 12, 2014

GENEVA (5 November 2014) – For the first time, two UN human rights expert committees have joined forces to issue a comprehensive interpretation of the obligations of States to prevent and eliminate harmful practices inflicted on women and girls, such as female genital mutilation, crimes committed in the name of so-called honour, forced and child marriage, and polygamy.

Egypt launches first prosecution for female genital mutilation after girl dies

March 26, 2014

Patrick Kingsley in Cairo - Friday 14th March 2014


Dr Raslan Fadl and father of the 13-year-old girl who died during cutting are the first to be prosecuted in Egypt for practice of FGM.

In a landmark case, Dr Raslan Fadl is the first doctor to be prosecuted for FGM in Egypt, where the practice was banned in 2008, but is still widely accepted and carried out by many doctors in private.

Sohair al-Bata'a died in Fadl's care in June 2013, and her family admitted that she had been victim to an FGM operation carried out at their request.

The case was initially dropped after an official medical report claimed that Sohair had been treated for genital warts, and that she died from an allergic reaction to penicillin. But after a campaign by local rights groups and the international organisation Equality Now, as well as an investigation by Egypt's state-run National Population Council (NPC), the country's chief prosecutor agreed to reopen the case – leading to this week's seminal prosecution of both Fadl and Sohair's father.

"It is a very important case," said Hala Youssef, head of the NPC, which had pushed for the case to be reopened. "It's the first time that somebody in Egypt will be prosecuted for this crime, and it should be a lesson for every clinician. The law is there, and it will be implemented."

According to Unicef, 91% of married Egyptian women aged between 15 and 49 have been subjected to FGM, 72% of them by doctors. Unicef research suggests that support for the practice is gradually falling: 63% of women in the same age bracket supported it in 2008, compared with 82% in 1995.

But according to research, FGM still has high support in areas with a lower standard of education, where proponents claim mutilation makes women less likely to commit adultery.

Families living near where Sohair died have not been put off the practice, says Reda Maarouf, a local lawyer involved in the case; they simply go to other doctors.

Sohair's family are reported to oppose her father's prosecution. "It's a cultural problem, not religious," said Vivian Foad, an official who led the NPC's investigation. "Both Muslims and Christians do it. They believe it protects a woman's chastity."

Some Islamic fundamentalists claim FGM is a religious duty, but it is not nearly as widespread in most other majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East. Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Equality Now's regional representative, said: "It's very much rooted in Egypt, but in other Arab countries – in Jordan, in Palestine, in Syria – we don't have it."

There are four main methods of committing FGM, according to theWorld Health Organisation, and Abu-Dayyeh said the practice of removing a girl's clitoris and labia was probably the most common in Egypt.

"It's a very painful procedure and I don't know why they do it. It's the worst one," said Abu-Dayyeh, who visited Sohair's grave in Mansoura, northern Egypt, as part of Equality Now's campaign. "Women will really not feel any pleasure when having sex with their husband. It's criminal."

Foad hopes Egypt's interim government will be more proactive about FGM than the administration it replaced after Mohamed Morsi's overthrow last year. Officially, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood claimed they opposed FGM, but prominent members and allies of the group expressed support for it. "People are entitled to do what suits them," said Azza al-Garf, a female MP from the Brotherhood's political arm, in 2012. Another ultra-conservative MP, Nasser al-Shaker – a member of a Salafi party that was then an ally of the Brotherhood – called for legalisation of FGM, and said it had a religious mandate.

Two years on, Egypt's leadership has been criticised internationally for other human rights abuses, but Foad hopes it will be more progressive than its predecessors on FGM. "Under Morsi, they didn't create a conducive atmosphere through the media, and through education – not only for FGM but all women's issues. Now the government is responding positively, and the media is responding positively."

Abu-Dayyeh said Fadl's prosecution was just the start. The case would count for little unless the doctor was jailed and an anti-FGM awareness campaign reached the country's poorest districts, she said.

"Now you need much more work. And it has to be done far away from Cairo – in the [rural areas] where the practice is very widespread."

Additional reporting by Manu Abdo

MEET A DEFENDER: DR ISATOU TOURAY

March 21, 2014

An unwavering commitment to ‘drop the knife’ in The Gambia

WHRDIC supports many women human rights defenders who fight for women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights, including the right to be free from female genital mutilation (FGM).

Despite being banned by the United Nations, this harmful practice continues to affect over 100 million women worldwide.

FGM in Egypt: Control over Female Sexuality

November 4, 2013

Egypt is the only country in North Africa where the practise of female genital mutilation remains widespread – despite an official ban and many public information campaigns for women. Anna Kölling reports from Cairo

According to estimates, over 90 per cent of all Egyptian women of childbearing age are affected by genital mutilation. The scale of this practice first became apparent in 1994 with a study conducted on population development and health. Activists have been fighting against female circumcision for decades and, after the popular uprising in early 2011, women's rights once again became a prominent topic in the media. Although women and men have fought side by side on the streets, the rights of women are nevertheless becoming increasingly jeopardised. Ultra-conservative groups, for example, are calling for the lifting of the ban on female circumcision, which was enacted into law in 2008. 

Female Genital Mutliation/Cutting: A Statistical Overview and an Exploration of the Dynamics of Change

September, 2013

This report is a comprehensive statistical overview of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in the 29 countries where the practice is concentrated. Analysisof the data reflects current perspectives on FGM/C, informed by the latest policy, programmatic and theoretical evidence. The purpose of the report is to generate an in-depth understanding of FGM/C that can be applied to the development of policies and programmes, with the ultimate aim of eliminating the practice.


UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Circumcision

December 20, 2012

The U.N. General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution Thursday calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation, a centuries-old practice stemming from the belief that circumcising girls controls women's sexuality and enhances fertility.

It has also been linked to religious and cultural practices, although Muslim and Christian leaders have spoken out against it.

Although not legally binding, General Assembly resolutions reflect international concerns and carry moral and political weight.

Gambia: Justice prevails in a two year-long judicial harassment case against two women human rights defenders

November 15, 2012

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), welcomes the vindication of two women humanrights defenders in The Gambia following two years of judicial harassment.

Somalia: Female genital mutilation banned under new constitution

August 17, 2012

Activists welcome measure but urge need for health warnings, community empowerment schemes, and dissociation from Islam.

Somalia: Woman Beheaded

August 21, 2012

SIHA Public Statement:

 – Peace in Somalia will Remain a Superficial until the Human Rights of Women are Protected.

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