Somalia bans female genital mutilation in the new constitution

Setembro 28 2012, : International NEWS
The practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) has been banned in Somalia under the country’s new constitution.

An estimated 96% of women in the African country undergo the practice, with up to 140 million globally living with FGM/C.

Prominent Somali women’s advocate Fatima Jibrell told African humanitarian news service IRIN: “The fact that the new provisional constitution outlaws the circumcision of girls is a welcome development, but this will require education, awareness-raising and strong legal provisions.”

Photo: Clitoraid Leaders from Burkina Faso, Bane and Abi, who actively promote awareness raising against FGM in Africa.

Ivory Coast: first judgment against excision

Julho 22 2012, : International NEWS
Clitoraid is pleased to see the authorities in Côte d'Ivoire stand against female genital mutilation by sentencing 9 women circumcisers and their accomplices in Katiola (CI ) on July 20th, 2012, for their criminal sexual practices on about thirty girls during a ceremony.

"Many women hope that this sentence will be followed by many others to dissuade circumcisers and irresponsible parents from committing those horrendous crimes," said Abi Sanon, coordinator of Clitoraid in Africa.

These sentences are necessary steps towards the eradication of those crimes as are prevention, protection of victims and surgical repair.

Clitoraid hospital to open in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso in 2012

Outubro 02 2011, : International NEWS
Every year around three million girls are genitally mutilated in the world. This old cruel tradition lives on even though it’s prohibited by law in most countries, including Burkina Faso. Plenty of efforts are done world-wide to put an end to this practice. One of the most remarkable initiatives may be the Clitoraid foundation that not just works to end the mutilations, but offers a way to undo the mutilation, at least physically, by repairing the clitoris.

By the end of 2012 Clitoraid plans to open a first hospital where they will offer surgery for free to victims of genital mutilation. The hospital goes under the name “The Pleasure Hospital”. The demand for this service is huge and increases as the word spreads. At the time of this writing, a year before the opening, Clitoraid has more than 400 women in Africa on their waiting list and yet another 30 in the US.

Several operations have already been performed and Banemanie, a woman in her fifties living in Burkina Faso, was one of the first to go through with the surgery.
“I was delighted when I heard about this operation and that it is possible to repair the clitoris. I urge the circumcised women all over the world and of all ages to get in contact and sign up to do the surgery. One woman told me she couldn’t see the point of the surgery as she’s fifty. It’s sad to hear things like that because I don’t think it matters what age you are. It is never too late”, says Banemanie. Today she is one of many Clitoraid-volunteers and also one of the foundations spokespersons. As a spokesperson she also shares her story online, to encourage other women and show that they are not alone with their experiences.
In a video on Clitoraid’s website she shares her story of that horrible day when she was 13. One afternoon when she got back home four elderly women were waiting for her near the lavatories by her house. The women grabbed her, forced her down on the ground and held in her arms and legs. One of them held the knife. “I've never screamed so much in my life. You can’t imagine the pain. Even when I talk about it today, I get tears in my eyes. Afterwards it kept bleeding a lot, it was dripping blood everywhere”, she says. But the pain did not end with this. Banemanie lost a lot blood and it took two months before the wound had healed, and as often in the case of female genital mutilation, severe scars remained.

350 EUR for an operation

The surgery for repairing genitally mutilated women was developed by a French surgeon more than 20 years ago. The surgery removes scar tissue and exposes the stump of the clitoris. The clitoris is in fact between six to ten centimetres long and mostly tucked in deep inside a woman's genitalia. The surgery aims at uncovering some of the clitoral tissue remaining after the circumcision hidden by the overlying skin. There are several types of circumcision affecting not only the clitoris but other parts of the victims’ genitalia. The surgery focuses on repairing the clitoris and freeing the vaginal opening if it was sown together as a result of the circumcision.
The operation costs about 350 EUR (500 USD), which unfortunately is an insurmountable sum for most people in Burkina Faso, as well as in many other African countries.
It must be clarified that 350 EUR (500 USD) is the current cost charged by non-affiliated Clitoraid doctors in Burkina Faso.  Once Clitoraid’s hospital is finished, these surgeries will be offered free of charge or at a minimal cost. Understandably, if the surgery is performed in Europe or the United States, the cost is much even higher for patients travelling from Africa due to steep western medical fees combined with accommodation and traveling.

First hospital to open by the end 2012

The construction of the “Pleasure Hospital” began in May 2007, in the town of Bobo-Dioulasso. The hospital’s official name is however “Kamkasso hospital”, which means “women's house”. The authorities in Bobo-Dioulasso didn’t agree on such a daring name as the “Pleasure Hospital", thereof this slight name-confusion.
Clitoraid has so far managed to raise enough funds to erect the building. Bricks have been laid by volunteers and some equipment has been donated from hospitals around the globe. The hospital will not only serve to do genital surgery, but will serve as general clinic for the area.
"Today we are confident that we can have the hospital ready for the women by mid 2012 as a few donators are now coming forward to help us finish it and have it operational for our trained international surgeons", explains Brigitte Boisselier, president of Clitoraid.
"One hospital in Burkina Faso may seem like a drop in the ocean in comparison to the millions of women in need of the surgery, but the idea is to open up more clinics around the world."
"We don't want to limit ourselves to the Kamkasso hospital, once this unit is operational and we have learned how to run it best, we want to reproduce it in all the regions where women have been mutilated and are hoping to know one day what it is to be whole again".

FACTS / Genital mutilation

According to the WHO about three million women are circumcised each year. That means that more than 8,000 girls are subjected to genital mutilation every day. It is estimated to be between 130 and 150 million genitally mutilated women in the world.
Female Genital Mutilation is often abbreviated to FGM.
WHO has classified four types or degrees of FGM:

  • Partial or total removal of the clitoris and / or clitoral prepuce(clitoridotomy).
  • Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia, with or without excision (cutting away) of the outer labia(excision).
  • Reduction of the vaginal opening by creating a seal in that the cutting and joining the inner and / or outer labia, with or without excision of the clitoris(infibulation).
  • All other harmful procedures on the female genitalia for non-medical reasons, such as cracking, chopping, scraping and burning.

Kenny Stolpe
Journalist and Web Communications Consultant

Associated Press Article: Female circumcision victims seek out Colorado doctor

Agosto 27 2010, : International NEWS
CATHERINE TSAI, Associated Press Writer

TRINIDAD, Colo. (AP) — This picturesque southern Colorado town known for decades as the sex-change capital of the world — thousands of gender-reassignment operations have been performed here — is becoming a beacon for victims of female genital mutilation.

Dr. Marci Bowers has performed about two dozen reconstructive surgeries on mostly African born women victimized as children by the culturally driven practice of female circumcision. Bowers is believed to be one of the few U.S. doctors performing the operation.

Bowers, who underwent a gender reassignment operation in the 1990s at age 40, said she relates to what her mutilation patients describe as a loss of identity, of not feeling whole.

"It took me so long to get there in my own life. I know what the feeling is like, seeking my own identity," she said.

Massah, a patient who grew up in a village in Sierra Leone and now lives in Australia, said the surgery "is like giving us a second life. Actually it's starting to live."

Wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt, dark blue pants and sneakers to her pre-surgery exam, Massah asked that her full name not be used because she hasn't told most friends and even family that she was having the surgery, or that she was circumcised as a girl in Africa.

She paid a $1,700 hospital fee, plus lodging and travel expenses for the surgery last month.

"I will spend my whole life savings," she said, "even if it's for one minute of feeling complete."

The World Health Organization estimates 100 million to 140 million girls and women worldwide have been circumcised.

Cultural, religious and social factors have helped keep the practice alive among those who believe it will reduce promiscuity and take away sexual pleasure or desire. The World Health Assembly passed a resolution in 2008 urging an end to the custom.

The restorative surgery practice in this town of 9,500 people near the New Mexico border began in early 2009.

Last month, at a guest house a short drive from Bowers' office, Massah and six other patients talked late into the night, sharing stories that they'd found difficult to voice even with best friends. All requested not to be identified.

One 37-year-old woman from Richmond, Va., was circumcised as an infant in Nigeria and realized in college during a biology class that she didn't look like her textbook diagrams. She said she would still like to ask her mother why.

"Why did you allow it to happen? What were you trying to prevent?"

Massah said she was circumcised at age 11 by a village woman. She was with about a half dozen of her sisters and cousins.

She was placed before the woman and was held down before being cut with what she thinks was a razor. She still remembers her screams.

"Nightmarish," she said.

She has felt ashamed, incomplete and apprehensive toward sex, she said.

"It's embarrassing going for Pap smears," Massah said haltingly, trying not to cry. "Just the look on people's faces."

She said she was hoping for "wholeness" from the surgery. A week into her recovery, she said she felt "ecstatic."

"Some people get another chance in life through organ transplant, but for me, this is it," she said.

Bowers learned her techniques for operating on FGM victims with a French surgeon, who performs the procedure in France.

Typically, patients have not had the entire clitoris removed, Bowers said, and the surgery exposes what remains, uses remaining tissue to reconstruct labia that may have been cut away, and clears scar tissue.

She said the surgery typically results in improvement in sensation as well as cosmetic benefits.

Bowers hopes to form a teaching program so other doctors can serve FGM victims.

"Somewhere, at some point, women have got to hold hands and say, 'No, no more. We're not going to do this anymore,'" she said.

Bowers' patients pay their own hospital fees and travel and lodging expenses, unless an insurer agrees to cover the hospital fee. Bowers donates her services.

Just how long that will continue here is uncertain. Bowers has announced plans to move to California this fall, and Mt. San Rafael Hospital where she operates says it has no immediate plans to add a new gender reassignment surgeon. That would be a big change for Trinidad, where Bowers' mentor, the late Dr. Stanley Biber, performed more than 5,000 sex change surgeries over more than 30 years.

Attitudes toward female circumcision are changing, the women patients said.

But, said Massah, "It's changing, but too slow. It's going to take a lot of generations."

Iman, a mother from the Twin Cities area in Minnesota who was circumcised, is grateful for Bowers and the chance to talk with other patients who underwent FGM.

"I left all that baggage at the guest house, all the things that tormented me," she said. "Imagine dealing with your worst demons and then meeting six other people who are dealing with the exact same issues you are. Then you get to leave all your baggage there, with no judgment."

Unlike other women who were blindfolded and cut in village ceremonies, with drumming and singing in the background, Iman was excised at age 12 in Kenya, in a doctor's office.

She had localized anesthesia. "I remember everything," she said. "My mom was there. I don't blame her because she did what was done for her. It was a rite of passage."

Later, she was taken to her grandmother, who checked whether the doctor had done a good job, she said.

After her grandmother died, her mother didn't take her three younger sisters to be circumcised. "I give her credit for that," she said. "It stopped with me."



Associated Press
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