Organisation calls for renewed focus to combat brutal human rights violation
DUBLIN, 12 February 2018 – Today, Amnesty International Ireland issued the following comments reacting to remarks made by Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre and lecturer at Trinity College Dublin justifying female genital mutilation (FGM) in some contexts. In an interview on RTÉ’s Prime Time on 8 February, he stated that there can be medical reasons for this practice, which may be acceptable if performed by a doctor in a safe environment.
“Dr Selim’s comments are a regrettable and dangerous approval of a brutal practice that has blighted the lives and health of millions of girls and women around the world. This is an affront to the thousands women and girls in Ireland who have suffered this terrible human rights abuse. We welcome the prompt and unconditional rejections of Selim’s position by the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre, and other representatives of the Muslim faith and community in Ireland. His comments about the medical indications for FGM have been dismissed by health professionals including the Medical Director of the Irish family Planning Association, and by the Minister for Health. His may be a minority view, but it still needs to be robustly challenged,” said Fiona Crowley, Research and Legal Manager with Amnesty International Ireland.
2016 census figures show an estimated 5,790 women and girls living in Ireland have undergone FGM, up from 3,780 in 2013. ActionAid Ireland has estimated that 2,639 girls in Ireland may currently be at risk of FGM. The organisation recently published research conducted in Cork which found that information, training and resources available to organisations working on the issue are inadequate.
“Amnesty International welcomed Ireland’s enactment of the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012. It has an expansive definition of the acts which amount to the criminal offence of FGM, and precludes the defence of consent or culture. It explicitly names FGM as a human rights violation and a form of gender-based violence. However, while it created the additional offence of removing a girl from the State for the purposes of undergoing FGM, we remain concerned that FGM must also be illegal in that jurisdiction in order for someone to be prosecuted in Ireland. This legislative gap must be corrected,” said Fiona Crowley.
“Legislation is important in setting standards to protect women and girls from this harmful practice, but it cannot, by itself, end the practice of FGM. We call on the government to ensure a meaningful and holistic approach to its eradication. It must implement and resource prevention measures, including human rights education and awareness raising campaigns involving practising communities. Community dialogue is a powerful human rights education tool and can lead to change. The government must also engage in routine data collection on the practice. It must ensure access to medical and psychological support services for women and girls who have undergone FGM. Often overlooked is the often lifelong psychological trauma FGM causes.
“There must be no complacency in addressing harmful societal attitudes to FGM. While there are differing degrees of FGM, it is vital that we recognise that all types of FGM violate women’s and girls’ rights. It is a brutal practice which reflects widely-held stereotypes about women’s sexuality and the belief that it must be controlled. In order for this to end, fundamentally needed is the empowerment of women, promotion and protection of sexual and reproductive health, and breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence against women and girls. We all in society have an important role to play in challenging attitudes which lead to or condone human rights violations against women,” said Fiona Crowley.
Notes for editors:
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a violation of human rights affecting an estimated 500,000 women and girls in Europe and putting another 180,000 girls at risk each year. Amnesty International Ireland has been working to combat FGM in Ireland and Europe since 2009, when it established the Brussels-based END FGM IN EUROPE campaign. It also worked with NGO partners and the Department of Health and Children to secure the enactment of a comprehensive criminal prohibition of FGM in Irish law, culminating in the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012.
Action Aid’s research was commissioned as part of the AFTER (Against FGM/C Through Empowerment and Rejection) project. It is available online here: https://actionaid.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/AFTER-Project-Briefing-Document-Baseline-Study-2016.pdf