Thursday, December 24, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
After the event, She She She had an interview with the Executive Director of the Women's Right NGO, Dr. Isatou Touray.
This is how it went:
She She She: We have just witnessed the second declaration on dropping of knives, can you tell the readers what were the strategies that Gamcotrap have used to convince the circumcisers.
Dr. Touray: First on the strategies, we have embraced every gender sensitive responsive, working with people in the community and understanding why FGM is practice and why women are given low status in the society and also we looked at factors that are influencing such perceptions.
We prepared our program of activities reaching out to various target groups in the communities, used the local languages discussing sexuality, women rights and violence against women.
Through these culturally relevant strategies women were able to make inform choices about FGM and they decided to stop, one of the most critical question was, what is the religious perspective of FGM. We had very progressive scholars who engaged the communities to clarified issues on FGM and Islam and when communities became aware of the realities they agreed to stop.
On the trends, we had two declarations first in 2007 and now 2009.
I would like to assure you that there will be another one in 2010 and 2011 respectively, and this is going to continue if we have resources to reach out to more communities. What people need is to get the right information, to make informed choices.
She She She: How certain is Gamcotrap, that these women will stick on the oath?
Dr. Touray: We are sure, because we had gone through a whole process of capacity building as well as making clarifications, building conscious issues and this has empowered them to choose to stop.
We have also worked with them to come up with an alternative of their choices to address poverty among circumcisers. We believe that they have gone through and the evidence of the effects of FGM is what made them to stop, and we also know that they are committed.
She She She: What are your next steps?
Dr. Touray: Our next step is to cover the remaining regions of the Gambia. We have already put a plan of action to cover the rest of the country. We have planned to work with all the relevant institutions. Our focus for 2010 to 2011 is to cover the North Bank Region, Central River Region, and the Lower River Region. We are also working to come up a law against FGM by the end of 2010 if possible. We have plans to work with the National Assembly members and the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia (FLAG) as well as women rights movements and UN system in the Gambia.
She She She: will there be a consequence for any of them found doing FGM again?
Dr. Touray: We are trying to monitor them, they are also joining forces with us to continue the advocacy work in maintaining leadership in their communities. We quarterly visit and monitor them. They also serve as community-based facilitators and resource persons. In other words is a network.
She She She: How long does it take Gamcotrap to achieve this unprecedented achievement?
Dr. Touray: Gamcotrap has been in the fight over FGM for 20 years, and because it has to do with religious, we needed to do a lot of community sensitization and awareness programs to break the taboo of silence over FGM. This was followed by a systematic program planning process with targets which leads these results. We used different strategies like I mentioned earlier, we looked at culture, health, religion, womens rights and AEO (Alternative, Employment Opportunities) for circumcisers.
She She She: What were your constraints in reaching to this stand?
Dr. Touray: There was gross ignorance about religion, to deal with this misconception was formidable, however, we were able to succeed because the Quran was one of our tools for solving arguments.
We also had some good scholars who were honest with their knowledge to support the work we do. I would like to specifically mention Imam Baba Leigh, Ustass Saikou Fayinkey of Basse, Momodou Sanno and other few scholars who have contributed to FGM and Islam in very positive ways.
She She She: What message do you have for the public?
Dr. Touray: The message is that FGM is not religious injunction, and there is no where in the Quran where it is prescribed for women and no where to be found in any authenticated hadith.
She She She: Thanks for your time.
Dr.Touray: You must welcome.
Author: Sarata Jabbi-Dibba
source: thepoint news paper
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Speaking at the occasion, Barry Wells, the United States ambassador to The Gambia, said education is a tool that once gotten can never be taken away. He revealed that in some countries, there are times the girls and women are not given much responsibilities, but now this has changed because girls and women have started raising their voices. He urged the children especially girls to learn how to speak for themselves.
Speaking on behalf of the school administration, Zono Jammeh welcomed FAWE-GAM to the school and also thanked them for choosing their school to hold such training. Emily Sarr, chairperson of FAWE-GAM, said Tuseme is a Swahili expression that is translated in Emglish as let us speak out. In this respect he noted the founders thought it fit to call an outreach programme that aimed at empowering girls to overcome their inhibitions and voice out their concerns in public.
She disclosed that it is a fact that the socialisation process in Africa is one that restraints the female voice and so the education of girls in the classroom is affected by their inhibitions and inability to speak out. Researches had shown that one of the factors behind poor academic performance by girls was that girls were not sufficiently involved in discussions of problems affecting them and their proposed remedies, she revealed.
In conclusion, Sarr said that the other consideration include the fact that Tuseme works well to enhance the human rights of girls and women, and that with courage and proper communication skills, girls and women are more likely to speak up about sexual harassment and other violations of their rights as well as seek redress. Addressing the students, Ousman Saidykhan, the facilitator, advised the children to participate so that they learn as much as possible.
The circumcisers were drawn from three hundred and fifty one communities in the Upper and Central River Regions.
Sarjo Damba an ex-circumciser who was among the first group of circumcisers to dropped knife pledge that she and her colleagues will not practice FGM again having known its full effects on the girl child. She told the new comers that for her, she never regret dropping the knife and is hopeful that they wont also regret.
Mrs.Wulay Damba who just dropped the knife reaffirmed their commitment to the pledge adding that over the years they have learnt a lot about FGM. "We are dropping the knife today for the benefit of our children," she said.
Ms. Inge Lise Ihlen from Norway said that her country doesnt have the custom of FGM but is now grappling with its effects as a result of migrants including those from The Gambia.
Ms. Albert Valea representing her group from Spain also spoke of their relationship with GAMCORAP.
The historic occasion was chaired by a renowned women figure Mrs.Nyimasata Sanneh Bojang. Madam Bojang used the opportunity to commend the Gambian leader Sheikh Prof.Yahya Jammeh for creating an enabling environment for Gambian women to exercise their rights in all spheres of national development. She thanked GAMCOTRAP for being in the forefront in the crusade against FGM for the past two decades with respect, dialogue and sensitisation.
Dr.Morisanda Kuyateh of Inter-Africa Committee (IAC) told the gathering that Africa needs only one more Dr.Isatou Touray to completely eradicate FGM on the continent.
Speaking on behalf of the chiefs, the Head Chief of Basse Hammeh Minteh Krubally applauded GAMCOTRAP for their efforts and creating the much needed awareness among rural communities. He described the day as a very important event. He praised GAMCOTRAP for the way and manner they handle the subject. "Before people do not attend this type of meetings but if you see this huge crow here is because then there was lack of understanding but today because of GAMCOTRAP we are gathered here in our numbers" said the chief of the host district. Aja Binta Sidibeh of ADVAC delivered the vote of thanks and commended the women for voluntarily stopping the practice of FGM in their communities.
The event ended with presentation of certificates to the district chiefs in the area and ex-circumcisers accompanied with cultural display.
It could be recalled that in May last year, GAMCOTRAP organised the first ever-public declaration on FGM during which 18 circumcisers from 63 communities dropped the knife.
After relinquishing the practice, circumcisers took an oath that they would not practise the FGM in their life again.
Meanwhile, the oath taken by the ex-circumcisers read: "We the circumcisers of The Gambia representing our cluster villages in the Central and Upper River Regions of The Gambia hereby present today at the Basse Stadium solemnly declare to the world and in particular The Gambia that we have stopped the practice of female genital mutilation in our communities, we have over the years received information through the training and advocacy works of GAMCOTRAP on women's health and have equipped knowledge about the effects of FGM on the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and the rights of the child. Having been empowered with the right information, we hereby publicly declared that we shall never involve ourselves in the practice of FGM again; we take leadership and responsibility in protecting and promoting the best interest of the girl child."
Saturday, December 5, 2009
In 2007, a 15-year old girl from the small town of Montalto, Italy, was raped by 8 teenagers at a party. They have been released and the entire county is now publicly blaming the girl, including the police and town authorities.
Here are some of the hateful words that were said against her:
A local man: "These are good boys, they have no need to rape girls, it's more her fault, she hooked up with someone else earlier that same day."
A 70-year-old man: "If I were 13 I would have gotten in line."
A policeman: "Why wait a month to report it?"
The Montalto rape case, on TV against the girl: "She had fun too."
Brawl during interviews with the town's inhabitants: “The girl? She should be hanged!”
The mother: “My daughter is severely depressed; she's not doing well…”
Today, she is going through a horrendous court experience. November 25th through December 10th mark the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. On this occasion, let’s show her that she is not alone, that she has international support, and that people care about her, even if they don't know her.
Please send your messages of support and encouragement to Cynthia Martens at email@example.com, who will forward them to the young survivor.
For more on this case, see the two articles below (in Italian):
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Founded in 2003, The Moremi Initiative for Women's Leadership in Africa strives to engage, inspire and equip young women and girls to become the next generation of leading politicians, activists, social entrepreneurs and change agents: Leaders who can transform and change institutions that legitimize and perpetuate discrimination against women. We firmly believe that the full and active participation of women in leadership is a pre-requisite for positive change and development in Africa, and addresses leadership imbalances. Moremi Initiative is headquartered in Ghana with offices in Nigeria and the United States- and works throughout Africa.
About MILEAD Fellows
I was honored to be nominated among 25 outstanding young African women leaders as 2009/2010 MILEAD Fellows. The MILEAD Fellows represent some of Africa’s most extra-ordinary young women leaders with the courage and commitment to lead/effect change in their communities. The Fellows, selected from a pool of more than 500 applicants represent 21 African countries and the Diaspora and include emerging young women leaders engaged in actively leading change on critical issues that range from women’s health and HIV/AIDS, economic justice, community development to political participation and environmental justice. They are between 19 to 25 years but have already demonstrated their commitment to serve and lead society at large. Together, they form a unique community which can dramatically affect the lives of future generations.
About 16 Day of Activism Against gender Violence
16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence which is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University in 1991. Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day against Violence against Women, and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a human rights violation. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:
• raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
• strengthening local work around violence against women
• establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women
• providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies
• demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women
• creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women
The theme for this year’s campaign is: Commit ▪ Act ▪ Demand: We CAN End Violence against Women!
Therefore, we all have a role to play; we all have a responsibility to end gender-based violence together as women, girls, men, boys, and individuals of all generations, religions, occupations, sexual orientations, abilities, political persuasions, and socio-economic backgrounds. In my capacity as the first and only Gambian to be awarded the MILEAD Fellowship 2009/2010 which enables us, the fellows to cross-examine concepts of leadership in a broad African context, cultivate the skills and experiences women need to occupy and excel in leadership positions and gain knowledge on cutting-edge issues critical to African women and their communities. We are each empowered and supported to create change in our community. Each fellow is leading change on a critical issue of importance to her community, and I am doing my part here in my community.
My project on early and forced marriage: In my fight against violence against women, I am looking at one of the major courses of domestic violence in my community which is early forced & arranged marriage which today results in profound physical, psychological and emotional consequences for affected girls and most often cut off educational opportunity and chances of personal growth for them. It further results in premature pregnancy and childbearing and potential lifetime of domestic and sexual subservience over which these girls has no control. These phenomena is destroying the lives of too many girls and young women in our community and denying them opportunities and rights that they may never have back. It requires urgent and immediate action Therefore, my project is a small but an important step in this direction- to mobilize and sensitize parents, girls and the community on the negative implications of this practice, promote community dialogue and action on the issue.
2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ formal recognition of November 25th as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. There are many other landmark dates and documents that are the direct result of ACTION that women’s rights activists and defenders have taken. The anti-violence against women movement provides one of the best illustrations of how local activism can translate into global action. Individuals, organizations, governments, etc. should take action on the commitments they have made to ending Violence against women. Each commitment – be it a personal pledge to speak out, a local or national law, an international convention or resolution, the Beijing Platform for Action – should be seen as a promise that has been made to women. NOW is the time to act on these promises. Every action, no matter how big or small, can make a difference!
At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995; women’s organizations from around the world met with government representatives and collaboratively produced the Beijing Platform for Action – one of the most forward-thinking government negotiated documents on women’s rights to date. This ground-breaking document set forth a list of actions, which, if implemented, would significantly reduce incidences of violence against women. 2010 marks the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women. Therefore, we must all demand implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as other key documents, and demand state accountability for ending impunity, allocating adequate resources, and implementing good laws and national action plans to address Violence against Women. We also call on the UN to take bolder action on the UN Secretary-General’s “Unite to End Violence against Women” Campaign.
What each and every one can do to end violence against women:
• Don’t abuse your daughter, wife, mother, girlfriend or any female
• Speak out against violence against women when you see one
• Parents must desist from forcing their young and innocent daughters into marriages that they are not ready or prepared for.
• The media should help create awareness about this important issue.
• Those who want to be part of my campaign or wish to support my campaign can contact me on +220 6206600 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, November 19, 2009
* Nothing can compensate Ruth Njeri for the suffering she underwent during the post-election violence, but she hopes that ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s visit to Kenya last week will ensure that those behind the bloodshed are punished.
Even before International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo came to Kenya last week, displaced people had been pleading with the government to increase the promised compensation sum.
But for people like Ruth Njeri, monetary compensation is not enough. Njeri, who lives in Shalom City Mawingu, a camp for displaced people near Nyandarua, was raped and her husband brutally killed during the post-election violence. The painful memories haunt her as she worries about providing for her two young children.
“We want to see justice being done,” she says, “As far as we are concerned, the future of this country lies in Ocampo’s hands and we want him to know that thousands of people are looking to him for justice and also to ensure that this country does not have a similar experience such as the one that stole our loved ones and our livelihoods!”
Talk of the violence evokes gruesome memories for Njeri as politicians worry about the fate of those who masterminded the post-election violence.
“What happened cannot be wiped from my mind, and life has been hell for me,” says Njeri quietly. “When we gather in the camp to discuss the issue, our main hope is that Ocampo will not allow politicians to convince him to let them off. We want him to conduct investigations so that the individuals involved can be charged and tried at The Hague, not in Kenya, because we have no confidence in the government.”
Before all hell broke loose in January 2008, Ruth was living in Kericho with her husband and eight-month-old son, Douglas. Her husband owned a thriving shoe business and provided well for the family.
“That evening, my husband heard about the looting going on in town and decided to go and check whether his shop had also been broken into,” she recalls.
“I had prepared the evening meal and decided to do the laundry as I waited for him. When he came back, he was very shaken. He told me that the shop had been looted, but I told him that since it was happening all around, we should not worry too much because after things calmed down, we would work hard to regain what we had lost.”
Njeri’s husband then went on to reveal that he had received a phone call from a friend in Londiani, where his parents lived.
“He said he had been told that both his parents had been killed and buried in a mass grave,” she says, “I could see that even as he spoke, he didn’t believe what he was saying. He also told me that he had seen hundreds of youths wearing white T-shirts and red shorts being brought to the town in a lorry. When the phone rang again, I answered it, and what he had told me was confirmed. We were advised to go into hiding as soon as possible to save our lives.”
Still in a daze, Njeri left her husband watching the evening news while holding their son and went outside to hang the washing. Out of nowhere, an arrow landed next to her foot and then she heard a strange sound. She looked up to see the low walls of the compound surrounded by painted faces.
“They were howling like dogs and were dressed in white T-shirts and red shorts,” she recalls. “I stood rooted to the ground with fear, knowing that these were the men my husband had referred to earlier. About seven of the men entered the compound and began kicking and pushing me into the house while the rest went away.”
Once inside the house, they took the little boy from Njeri’s husband and flung him against the wall. They then attacked her husband. “They were prepared and well-armed,” recalls Njeri. “They had machetes, rungus, arrows and whips. I cried for mercy, then pleaded, but they would not listen. I ran to the bedroom and got them Sh40,000. I begged them to take the money and leave us but they just laughed.
"One of them snatched the money from me, smelt it and threw it in my face. He reached into his pockets and pulled out many Sh1,000 notes, ‘We don’t need your money, we have been paid well to do our job,’” he said.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The Conference will take stock of progress achieved in Africa since the Beijing Summit on Women fifteen years ago, and identify pending challenges for the implementation of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action. Its threefold objective is therefore to:
- Review the evaluation report that ECA has prepared based on the inputs received from member States;
- Identify key actions that Africa needs to focus on in the next five years, in time for the second decade review of the Beijing Plus 15 Agenda; and
- Define Africa’s input into the global review of the BPFA, due to take place at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March 2010.
This regional conference on women is convening in the wake of the recent Regional Conference of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) +15 held in Addis Ababa in early October 2009. This latter assessed progress achieved in the implementation of The Programme of Action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD 1995); and reiterated the imperative need to accelerate action towards achieving gender equality and effectively empowering women and promoting their human rights in Africa.The Banjul Conference kick start with the statutory meeting of the ECA’s Committee on Women and Development, which is followed by the Ministerial meeting.
One of the major highlights of this African Regional Conference on Women is the launch by ECA of its African Women’s Report 2009 (AWR), which is its flagship publication on gender issues in Africa. The AWR2009 is unique in its purpose as it focuses on the use of an Africa specific tool that was recently developed by ECA, the African Gender and Development Index (AG DI)). This tool aims to enhance the ability of African countries to monitor and report on their performance in the implementation of global and regional commitments and instruments on the advancement of women.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
We were marveled by the scenario on TV when youths and women were paraded by security personnel as if they had committed serious crimes. When we came to gather that the security forces were engaged in what amounts to a moral cleansing exercise by arresting people standing about in the Tourism Development Area and subjecting them to questioning and releasing only those who gave satisfactory answers, Foroyaa emphasised that each sovereign person has a right to freedom of movement.
We also pointed out that curfew must be declared in a disturbed area before certain procedures are put in place to manage a crisis. We insisted that during normal times the most that a security personnel could do is to ask a person for an Identity Card. Other than that any subjection of a person to any form of interrogation amounts to harassment and abuse of authority. Hence, Foroyaa was concerned when 35 women appeared in court charged under the rogue and vagabond provision, a law which has been deleted from the statute books of many democratic states because of its tendency to prosecute only the poor for their poverty rather than for doing anything which harms another or the public interest. This is why Foroyaa challenged the Female Lawyers Association in the Gambia (FLAG) and (FLARE) to take charge in defending the rights of such women.
The Female Lawyers Association of the Gambia did assume their role. Their president, Janet Sallah Njie, did argue against their conviction. Ultimately, the magistrate agreed with her arguments. They were therefore acquitted and discharged. Human Rights need defenders. Those who expose their violations and come to the defence of victims in courts are called human rights defenders. No modern society could combat abuse of authority and impunity without the active participation of Human Rights defenders. The poor can never get justice before courts unless some lawyers are willing to put money aside and defend victims because of their love for justice and their determination to ensure that it prevails.
Congratulation FLAG! This is the way forward
Monday, November 9, 2009
Beijing, China - September 1995
Action for Equality, Development and Peace
1.The Platform for Action is an agenda for women's empowerment. It aims at accelerating the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women  and at removing all the obstacles to women's active participation in all spheres of public and private life through a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making. This means that the principle of shared power and responsibility should be established between women and men at home, in the workplace and in the wider national and international communities. Equality between women and men is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and is also a necessary and fundamental prerequisite for equality, development and peace. A transformed partnership based on equality between women and men is a condition for people-centred sustainable development. A sustained and long-term commitment is essential, so that women and men can work together for themselves, for their children and for society to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.
2.The Platform for Action reaffirms the fundamental principle set forth in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,  adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, that the human rights of women and of the girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. As an agenda for action, the Platform seeks to promote and protect the full enjoyment of all human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all women throughout their life cycle.
3.The Platform for Action emphasizes that women share common concerns that can be addressed only by working together and in partnership with men towards the common goal of gender* equality around the world. It respects and values the full diversity of women's situations and conditions and recognizes that some women face particular barriers to their empowerment.
4.The Platform for Action requires immediate and concerted action by all to create a peaceful, just and humane world based on human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the principle of equality for all people of all ages and from all walks of life, and to this end, recognizes that broad- based and sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development is necessary to sustain social development and social justice.
5.The success of the Platform for Action will require a strong commitment on the part of Governments, international organizations and institutions at all levels. It will also require adequate mobilization of resources at the national and international levels as well as new and additional resources to the developing countries from all available funding mechanisms, including multilateral, bilateral and private sources for the advancement of women; financial resources to strengthen the capacity of national, subregional, regional and international institutions; a commitment to equal rights, equal responsibilities and equal opportunities and to the equal participation of women and men in all national, regional and international bodies and policy- making processes; and the establishment or strengthening of mechanisms at all levels for accountability to the world's women.
6.The Fourth World Conference on Women is taking place as the world stands poised on the threshold of a new millennium.
7.The Platform for Action upholds the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women  and builds upon the Nairobi Forward- looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, as well as relevant resolutions adopted by the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. The formulation of the Platform for Action is aimed at establishing a basic group of priority actions that should be carried out during the next five years.
7.The Platform for Action recognizes the importance of the agreements reached at the World Summit for Children, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the World Conference on Human Rights, the International Conference on Population and Development and the World Summit for Social Development, which set out specific approaches and commitments to fostering sustainable development and international cooperation and to strengthening the role of the United Nations to that end. Similarly, the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the International Conference on Nutrition, the International Conference on Primary Health Care and the World Conference on Education for All have addressed the various facets of development and human rights, within their specific perspectives, paying significant attention to the role of women and girls. In addition, the International Year for the World's Indigenous People,  the International Year of the Family,  the United Nations Year for Tolerance,  the Geneva Declaration for Rural Women,  and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women  have also emphasized the issues of women's empowerment and equality.
8.The objective of the Platform for Action, which is in full conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, is the empowerment of all women. The full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women is essential for the empowerment of women. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The implementation of this Platform, including through national laws and the formulation of strategies, policies, programmes and development priorities, is the sovereign responsibility of each State, in conformity with all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the significance of and full respect for various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical convictions of individuals and their communities should contribute to the full enjoyment by women of their human rights in order to achieve equality, development and peace.
9.Since the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace, held at Nairobi in 1985, and the adoption of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, the world has experienced profound political, economic, social and cultural changes, which have had both positive and negative effects on women. The World Conference on Human Rights recognized that the human rights of women and the girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. The full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life at the national, regional and international levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on the grounds of sex are priority objectives of the international community. The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed the solemn commitment of all States to fulfil their obligations to promote universal respect for, and observance and protection of, all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, other instruments related to human rights and international law. The universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question.
10.The end of the cold war has resulted in international changes and diminished competition between the super-Powers. The threat of a global armed conflict has diminished, while international relations have improved and prospects for peace among nations have increased. Although the threat of global conflict has been reduced, wars of aggression, armed conflicts, colonial or other forms of alien domination and foreign occupation, civil wars, and terrorism continue to plague many parts of the world. Grave violations of the human rights of women occur, particularly in times of armed conflict, and include murder, torture, systematic rape, forced pregnancy and forced abortion, in particular under policies of ethnic cleansing.
11.The maintenance of peace and security at the global, regional and local levels, together with the prevention of policies of aggression and ethnic cleansing and the resolution of armed conflict, is crucial for the protection of the human rights of women and girl children, as well as for the elimination of all forms of violence against them and of their use as a weapon of war.
12.Excessive military expenditures, including global military expenditures and arms trade or trafficking, and investments for arms production and acquisition have reduced the resources available for social development. As a result of the debt burden and other economic difficulties, many developing countries have undertaken structural adjustment policies. Moreover, there are structural adjustment programmes that have been poorly designed and implemented, with resulting detrimental effects on social development. The number of people living in poverty has increased disproportionately in most developing countries, particularly the heavily indebted countries, during the past decade.
13.In this context, the social dimension of development should be emphasized. Accelerated economic growth, although necessary for social development, does not by itself improve the quality of life of the population. In some cases, conditions can arise which can aggravate social inequality and marginalization. Hence, it is indispensable to search for new alternatives that ensure that all members of society benefit from economic growth based on a holistic approach to all aspects of development: growth, equality between women and men, social justice, conservation and protection of the environment, sustainability, solidarity, participation, peace and respect for human rights.
14.A world-wide movement towards democratization has opened up the political process in many nations, but the popular participation of women in key decision-making as full and equal partners with men, particularly in politics, has not yet been achieved. South Africa's policy of institutionalized racism - apartheid - has been dismantled and a peaceful and democratic transfer of power has occurred. In Central and Eastern Europe the transition to parliamentary democracy has been rapid and has given rise to a variety of experiences, depending on the specific circumstances of each country. While the transition has been mostly peaceful, in some countries this process has been hindered by armed conflict that has resulted in grave violations of human rights.
15.Widespread economic recession, as well as political instability in some regions, has been responsible for setting back development goals in many countries. This has led to the expansion of unspeakable poverty. Of the more than 1 billion people living in abject poverty, women are an overwhelming majority. The rapid process of change and adjustment in all sectors has also led to increased unemployment and underemployment, with particular impact on women. In many cases, structural adjustment programmes have not been designed to minimize their negative effects on vulnerable and disadvantaged groups or on women, nor have they been designed to assure positive effects on those groups by preventing their marginalization in economic and social activities. The Final Act of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations  underscored the increasing interdependence of national economies, as well as the importance of trade liberalization and access to open, dynamic markets. There has also been heavy military spending in some regions. Despite increases in official development assistance (ODA) by some countries, ODA has recently declined overall.
16.Absolute poverty and the feminization of poverty, unemployment, the increasing fragility of the environment, continued violence against women and the widespread exclusion of half of humanity from institutions of power and governance underscore the need to continue the search for development, peace and security and for ways of assuring people-centred sustainable development. The participation and leadership of the half of humanity that is female is essential to the success of that search. Therefore, only a new era of international cooperation among Governments and peoples based on a spirit of partnership, an equitable, international social and economic environment, and a radical transformation of the relationship between women and men to one of full and equal partnership will enable the world to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.
17.Recent international economic developments have had in many cases a disproportionate impact on women and children, the majority of whom live in developing countries. For those States that have carried a large burden of foreign debt, structural adjustment programmes and measures, though beneficial in the long term, have led to a reduction in social expenditures, thereby adversely affecting women, particularly in Africa and the least developed countries. This is exacerbated when responsibilities for basic social services have shifted from Governments to women.
18.Economic recession in many developed and developing countries, as well as ongoing restructuring in countries with economies in transition, have had a disproportionately negative impact on women's employment. Women often have no choice but to take employment that lacks long-term job security or involves dangerous working conditions, to work in unprotected home-based production or to be unemployed. Many women enter the labour market in under-remunerated and undervalued jobs, seeking to improve their household income; others decide to migrate for the same purpose. Without any reduction in their other responsibilities, this has increased the total burden of work for women.
19.Macro and micro-economic policies and programmes, including structural adjustment, have not always been designed to take account of their impact on women and girl children, especially those living in poverty. Poverty has increased in both absolute and relative terms, and the number of women living in poverty has increased in most regions. There are many urban women living in poverty; however, the plight of women living in rural and remote areas deserves special attention given the stagnation of development in such areas. In developing countries, even those in which national indicators have shown improvement, the majority of rural women continue to live in conditions of economic underdevelopment and social marginalization.
20.Women are key contributors to the economy and to combating poverty through both remunerated and unremunerated work at home, in the community and in the workplace. Growing numbers of women have achieved economic independence through gainful employment.
21.One fourth of all households world wide are headed by women and many other households are dependent on female income even where men are present. Female-maintained households are very often among the poorest because of wage discrimination, occupational segregation patterns in the labour market and other gender-based barriers. Family disintegration, population movements between urban and rural areas within countries, international migration, war and internal displacements are factors contributing to the rise of female- headed households.
22.Recognizing that the achievement and maintenance of peace and security are a precondition for economic and social progress, women are increasingly establishing themselves as central actors in a variety of capacities in the movement of humanity for peace. Their full participation in decision-making, conflict prevention and resolution and all other peace initiatives is essential to the realization of lasting peace.
23.Religion, spirituality and belief play a central role in the lives of millions of women and men, in the way they live and in the aspirations they have for the future. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is inalienable and must be universally enjoyed. This right includes the freedom to have or to adopt the religion or belief of their choice either individually or in community with others, in public or in private, and to manifest their religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. In order to realize equality, development and peace, there is a need to respect these rights and freedoms fully. Religion, thought, conscience and belief may, and can, contribute to fulfilling women's and men's moral, ethical and spiritual needs and to realizing their full potential in society. However, it is acknowledged that any form of extremism may have a negative impact on women and can lead to violence and discrimination.
24.The Fourth World Conference on Women should accelerate the process that formally began in 1975, which was proclaimed International Women's Year by the United Nations General Assembly. The Year was a turning-point in that it put women's issues on the agenda. The United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985) was a world-wide effort to examine the status and rights of women and to bring women into decision-making at all levels. In 1979, the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which entered into force in 1981 and set an international standard for what was meant by equality between women and men. In 1985, the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace adopted the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, to be implemented by the year 2000. There has been important progress in achieving equality between women and men. Many Governments have enacted legislation to promote equality between women and men and have established national machineries to ensure the mainstreaming of gender perspectives in all spheres of society. International agencies have focused greater attention on women's status and roles.
25.The growing strength of the non-governmental sector, particularly women's organizations and feminist groups, has become a driving force for change. Non-governmental organizations have played an important advocacy role in advancing legislation or mechanisms to ensure the promotion of women. They have also become catalysts for new approaches to development. Many Governments have increasingly recognized the important role that non-governmental organizations play and the importance of working with them for progress. Yet, in some countries, Governments continue to restrict the ability of non-governmental organizations to operate freely. Women, through non-governmental organizations, have participated in and strongly influenced community, national, regional and global forums and international debates.
26.Since 1975, knowledge of the status of women and men, respectively, has increased and is contributing to further actions aimed at promoting equality between women and men. In several countries, there have been important changes in the relationships between women and men, especially where there have been major advances in education for women and significant increases in their participation in the paid labour force. The boundaries of the gender division of labour between productive and reproductive roles are gradually being crossed as women have started to enter formerly male-dominated areas of work and men have started to accept greater responsibility for domestic tasks, including child care. However, changes in women's roles have been greater and much more rapid than changes in men's roles. In many countries, the differences between women's and men's achievements and activities are still not recognized as the consequences of socially constructed gender roles rather than immutable biological differences.
27.Moreover, 10 years after the Nairobi Conference, equality between women and men has still not been achieved. On average, women represent a mere 10 per cent of all elected legislators world wide and in most national and international administrative structures, both public and private, they remain underrepresented. The United Nations is no exception. Fifty years after its creation, the United Nations is continuing to deny itself the benefits of women's leadership by their underrepresentation at decision-making levels within the Secretariat and the specialized agencies.
28.Women play a critical role in the family. The family is the basic unit of society and as such should be strengthened. It is entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support. In different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family exist. The rights, capabilities and responsibilities of family members must be respected. Women make a great contribution to the welfare of the family and to the development of society, which is still not recognized or considered in its full importance. The social significance of maternity, motherhood and the role of parents in the family and in the upbringing of children should be acknowledged. The upbringing of children requires shared responsibility of parents, women and men and society as a whole. Maternity, motherhood, parenting and the role of women in procreation must not be a basis for discrimination nor restrict the full participation of women in society. Recognition should also be given to the important role often played by women in many countries in caring for other members of their family.
29.While the rate of growth of world population is on the decline, world population is at an all-time high in absolute numbers, with current increments approaching 86 million persons annually. Two other major demographic trends have had profound repercussions on the dependency ratio within families. In many developing countries, 45 to 50 per cent of the population is less than 15 years old, while in industrialized nations both the number and proportion of elderly people are increasing. According to United Nations projections, 72 per cent of the population over 60 years of age will be living in developing countries by the year 2025, and more than half of that population will be women. Care of children, the sick and the elderly is a responsibility that falls disproportionately on women, owing to lack of equality and the unbalanced distribution of remunerated and unremunerated work between women and men.
30.Many women face particular barriers because of various diverse factors in addition to their gender. Often these diverse factors isolate or marginalize such women. They are, inter alia, denied their human rights, they lack access or are denied access to education and vocational training, employment, housing and economic self-sufficiency and they are excluded from decision-making processes. Such women are often denied the opportunity to contribute to their communities as part of the mainstream.
31.The past decade has also witnessed a growing recognition of the distinct interests and concerns of indigenous women, whose identity, cultural traditions and forms of social organization enhance and strengthen the communities in which they live. Indigenous women often face barriers both as women and as members of indigenous communities.
32.In the past 20 years, the world has seen an explosion in the field of communications. With advances in computer technology and satellite and cable television, global access to information continues to increase and expand, creating new opportunities for the participation of women in communications and the mass media and for the dissemination of information about women. However, global communication networks have been used to spread stereotyped and demeaning images of women for narrow commercial and consumerist purposes. Until women participate equally in both the technical and decision-making areas of communications and the mass media, including the arts, they will continue to be misrepresented and awareness of the reality of women's lives will continue to be lacking. The media have a great potential to promote the advancement of women and the equality of women and men by portraying women and men in a non-stereotypical, diverse and balanced manner, and by respecting the dignity and worth of the human person.
33.The continuing environmental degradation that affects all human lives has often a more direct impact on women. Women's health and their livelihood are threatened by pollution and toxic wastes, large-scale deforestation, desertification, drought and depletion of the soil and of coastal and marine resources, with a rising incidence of environmentally related health problems and even death reported among women and girls. Those most affected are rural and indigenous women, whose livelihood and daily subsistence depends directly on sustainable ecosystems.
34.Poverty and environmental degradation are closely interrelated. While poverty results in certain kinds of environmental stress, the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries, which are a matter of grave concern and aggravate poverty and imbalances.
35.Global trends have brought profound changes in family survival strategies and structures. Rural to urban migration has increased substantially in all regions. The global urban population is projected to reach 47 per cent of the total population by the year 2000. An estimated 125 million people are migrants, refugees and displaced persons, half of whom live in developing countries. These massive movements of people have profound consequences for family structures and well-being and have unequal consequences for women and men, including in many cases the sexual exploitation of women.
36.According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, by the beginning of 1995 the number of cumulative cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) was 4.5 million. An estimated 19.5 million men, women and children have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) since it was first diagnosed and it is projected that another 20 million will be infected by the end of the decade. Among new cases, women are twice as likely to be infected as men. In the early stage of the AIDS pandemic, women were not infected in large numbers; however, about 8 million women are now infected. Young women and adolescents are particularly vulnerable. It is estimated that by the year 2000 more than 13 million women will be infected and 4 million women will have died from AIDS-related conditions. In addition, about 250 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases are estimated to occur every year. The rate of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, is increasing at an alarming rate among women and girls, especially in developing countries.
37.Since 1975, significant knowledge and information have been generated about the status of women and the conditions in which they live. Throughout their entire life cycle, women's daily existence and long-term aspirations are restricted by discriminatory attitudes, unjust social and economic structures, and a lack of resources in most countries that prevent their full and equal participation. In a number of countries, the practice of prenatal sex selection, higher rates of mortality among very young girls and lower rates of school enrolment for girls as compared with boys suggest that son preference is curtailing the access of girl children to food, education and health care and even life itself. Discrimination against women begins at the earliest stages of life and must therefore be addressed from then onwards.
38.The girl child of today is the woman of tomorrow. The skills, ideas and energy of the girl child are vital for full attainment of the goals of equality, development and peace. For the girl child to develop her full potential she needs to be nurtured in an enabling environment, where her spiritual, intellectual and material needs for survival, protection and development are met and her equal rights safeguarded. If women are to be equal partners with men, in every aspect of life and development, now is the time to recognize the human dignity and worth of the girl child and to ensure the full enjoyment of her human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights assured by the Convention on the Rights of the Child,  universal ratification of which is strongly urged. Yet there exists world-wide evidence that discrimination and violence against girls begin at the earliest stages of life and continue unabated throughout their lives. They often have less access to nutrition, physical and mental health care and education and enjoy fewer rights, opportunities and benefits of childhood and adolescence than do boys. They are often subjected to various forms of sexual and economic exploitation, paedophilia, forced prostitution and possibly the sale of their organs and tissues, violence and harmful practices such as female infanticide and prenatal sex selection, incest, female genital mutilation and early marriage, including child marriage.
39.Half the world's population is under the age of 25 and most of the world's youth - more than 85 per cent - live in developing countries. Policy makers must recognize the implications of these demographic factors. Special measures must be taken to ensure that young women have the life skills necessary for active and effective participation in all levels of social, cultural, political and economic leadership. It will be critical for the international community to demonstrate a new commitment to the future - a commitment to inspiring a new generation of women and men to work together for a more just society. This new generation of leaders must accept and promote a world in which every child is free from injustice, oppression and inequality and free to develop her/his own potential. The principle of equality of women and men must therefore be integral to the socialization process
CRITICAL AREAS OF CONCERN
41.The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women's issue. They are the only way to build a sustainable, just and developed society. Empowerment of women and equality between women and men are prerequisites for achieving political, social, economic, cultural and environmental security among all peoples.
42.Most of the goals set out in the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women have not been achieved. Barriers to women's empowerment remain, despite the efforts of Governments, as well as non-governmental organizations and women and men everywhere. Vast political, economic and ecological crises persist in many parts of the world. Among them are wars of aggression, armed conflicts, colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, civil wars and terrorism. These situations, combined with systematic or de facto discrimination, violations of and failure to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women, and their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, including the right to development and ingrained prejudicial attitudes towards women and girls are but a few of the impediments encountered since the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace, in 1985.
43.A review of progress since the Nairobi Conference highlights special concerns - areas of particular urgency that stand out as priorities for action. All actors should focus action and resources on the strategic objectives relating to the critical areas of concern which are, necessarily, interrelated, interdependent and of high priority. There is a need for these actors to develop and implement mechanisms of accountability for all the areas of concern.
44.To this end, Governments, the international community and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, are called upon to take strategic action in the following critical areas of concern:
◦The persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women
◦Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to education and training
◦Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to health care and related services
◦Violence against women
◦The effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on women, including those living under foreign occupation
◦Inequality in economic structures and policies, in all forms of productive activities and in access to resources
◦Inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels
◦Insufficient mechanisms at all levels to promote the advancement of women
◦Lack of respect for and inadequate promotion and protection of the human rights of women
◦Stereotyping of women and inequality in women's access to and participation in all communication systems, especially in the media
◦Gender inequalities in the management of natural resources and in the safeguarding of the environment
◦Persistent discrimination against and violation of the rights of the girl child
Strategic Objectives and Action
45.In each critical area of concern, the problem is diagnosed and strategic objectives are proposed with concrete actions to be taken by various actors in order to achieve those objectives. The strategic objectives are derived from the critical areas of concern and specific actions to be taken to achieve them cut across the boundaries of equality, development and peace - the goals of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women - and reflect their interdependence. The objectives and actions are interlinked, of high priority and mutually reinforcing. The Platform for Action is intended to improve the situation of all women, without exception, who often face similar barriers, while special attention should be given to groups that are the most disadvantaged.
46.The Platform for Action recognizes that women face barriers to full equality and advancement because of such factors as their race, age, language, ethnicity, culture, religion or disability, because they are indigenous women or because of other status. Many women encounter specific obstacles related to their family status, particularly as single parents; and to their socio- economic status, including their living conditions in rural, isolated or impoverished areas. Additional barriers also exist for refugee women, other displaced women, including internally displaced women as well as for immigrant women and migrant women, including women migrant workers. Many women are also particularly affected by environmental disasters, serious and infectious diseases and various forms of violence against women.
The year 2010 is the mid-term review to Beijing +20. This is critical time for stocktaking and determining the steps to be taken towards achieving gender equality and women's empowerment. A key agenda of the Eighth Africa review is to inform the global report for review in 2010. The aim is to ensure that all 53 member states report on their level of implementation. Numerous lessons were learnt from previous reviews. At the Global review to be held March 1-12 in 2010 a UN commission on the Status of Women will be held March 1-12 in 2010. In that forum government delegations will assess progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action 15 years since it was adopted at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995.
The last review in Africa of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action was held in Addis Ababa in the year 2004. Reviews of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in Africa involve presentation of country reports, sub-regional conferences, as well as regional conferences. It is imperative that the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) continues to influence the political, social and economic development processes in all African member states.
The UNDP Representatives around the continent will use the conference as an opportunity to share experiences and lessons learned on Gender Equality and Advancement of Women.
The 12 critical issues of concern to the BPFA are:
Women and poverty
Education and training of women
Women and health
Violence against women
Women and armed conflict
Women and the economy
Women in power and decision-making
Institutional mechanism for the advancement of women
Human rights of women
Women and the media
Women and the environment
The Girl child
The BPFA is considered the most comprehensive agenda for women's empowerment. It contains strategic objectives and actions on the 12 critical issues of concern to women. In anticipation of Beijing +15, governments and NGOs around the world are engaged in preparatory activities to assess progress made at both national and regional levels to identify gaps and challenges requiring accelerated action in the years ahead.
Africa Regional Task Force
An African Regional Task Force has been set up and key among its mission is to mobilize women's organizations and individuals in different countries to carry out activities at national level, aimed at raising awareness on the 12 issues and ensuring that the governments take further measures and action to implement the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA).The Task Force will encourage women's NGOs and Civil Society Organizations to participate in national review activities and produce shadow reports, which will cover the accomplishments made and make suggestions on how to fill the gaps. These reports will be collated sub-regionally and sub-regional reports will inform the regional and civil society report. The Africa Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), a Task Force member, is coordinating for a number of Eastern and Central African countries.
Hosting of Beijing +15 Conference
The Gambia has agreed to host the 2009 Africa Review November 16-20, 2009. This is indeed a big event and an honour bestowed on the country. Recognizing that Beijing is a UN Conference, UNDP will support the government of the Gambia in hosting the conference.
The grand event will take place at the elegant Kairaba Beach Hotel. The host country plans to undertake a series of preparatory activities in the buildup to the conference. The pre-conference activities will include preparation of a country (national) report on the status of implementation of the commitment, finalization of the draft gender Policy and Strategic plan and production of a documentary film. The Documentary will feature good practices, achievements, challenges and forward looking strategies on the implementation of the 12 critical issues. The film will be projected at peak points during the conference. A summary background document will be prepared by a national consultant in order to guide the producer of the Documentary.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
This body is responsible for facilitating the African inter-governmental preparation for the Beijing +15 review. This includes: dissemination of questionnaires to national gender machineries to assess progress on implementation of the BPFA; compiling a comprehensive report based on the findings; and convening an Experts Group meeting and endorse the report. The ECA will also facilitate observer status for the Africa Task Force at a Ministerial meeting to be held in October 2009. It will also organize space for civil society to parallel activities and present their findings during the meeting.
Monday, November 2, 2009
FGM/C comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons1. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises four types of FGM/C, the most severe of which is type III (infibulation), sometimes known as Pharaonic circumcision; approximately 15 percent of all forms of female genital cutting are of this type.The Somali ethnic community, in Kenya as well in Somalia, Djibouti, and Ethiopia, has practiced female genital cutting for centuries and the practice appears to have remained largely unchanged. The 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) found a prevalence of 96.8 percent among Somali respondents and 98.9 percent for the North Eastern Province where the majority of Somalis live. The community practices primarily type III or infibulations.
The Population Council’s FRONTIERSs in Reproductive Health Program, with support from SAID/Kenya, carried out two studies to better understand the practice of FGM/C among the Somalis in North Eastern Province so as to inform the design and implementation of interventions to encourage its abandonment. The first diagnostic study was carried out in Mandera and Wajir districts and in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area in 2004. The second, a baseline study, was conducted in November 2005 in six locations in the Central Division of Wajir District. Both studies collected data through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with community and religious leaders as well as with recently married and unmarried men and women. The first study also included interviews with health care providers and antenatal clients who had been cut, and undertook an assessment of clinics’readiness to offer safe motherhood services.These studies confirmed that FGM/C is a deeply rooted and widely supported practice that is sustained through many cultural justifications that reinforce its continuation.
The three main reasons cited were that FGM/C is a Somali tradition, that it is an Islamic requirement,and that it enforces the cultural value of sexual purity in females by controlling female sexual desires, thereby ensuring virginity before marriage and fidelity throughout a woman’s life. The studies showed that there is a fear of women “running wild” and becoming promiscuous if they are not circumcised and infibulated. FGM/C is erroneously seen as a way of complying with the Islamic requirement of chastity and morality, and is also believed to enhance women’s ritual cleanliness to enable them to pray.
The perceived Islamic requirement is a major justification for FGM/C in practicing Muslim communities such as the Somali. It is necessary therefore to ascertain the correct position of Islam as regards the practice and to communicate this to religious leaders from the Islamic communities practicing FGM/C. This booklet is a humble effort to clarify the truth about Islam and the practice of FGM/C by critically examining the evidence cited by supporters of the practice, especially those who describe it as an Islamic practice.
WHY FGM/C IS LINKED WITH ISLAM
Various reasons are given for the practice of FGM/C in different communities. However, in predominantly Muslim communities, the practice has been linked with Islam and the belief that every Muslim woman must be subjected to it is very strong. For example, the Somali community in Wajir said: “One who is not circumcised is not a Muslim, and even her parents are seen as not being in the religion, that is how we see as Somalis”, (Married men, Wagberi).
The following are reasons why the practice has been linked with Islam. Religious terms used to refer to the practice.
The use of some religious terms to refer to the practice has given it an Islamic identity and strengthened the belief that Islam requires FGM/C. An example is the use of the word Sunnah which is an Islamic religious term . ( Definition of Sunnah
1. Literally, in Arabic, a ‘path or a way’
2. In the Islamic religious context: ‘way of life or tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH1) i.e. what he said, what he did and what he approved that Muslims are recommended to practice’.
3. In fiqhi i.e. Islamic jurisprudence: ‘an optional act which is recommended and when done a person is rewarded, if not done the person has not sinned’.
In the context of FGM/C, sunnah means following the way of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Proponents of the practice believe that FGM/C was one of his traditions. )
They also believe that the practice is optional and observing it confers virtue.There is another meaning that has been given to the word which emanates from usage among many Muslim communities i.e. something small. For example it is common for somebody inviting another to share in a drink or food to tell that person “take sunnah” meaning “take something small”. In the context of FGM/C, supporters hold the view that it involves cutting something small from the female genitalia hence sunnah. When asked what Islam says about the practice, respondents in Wajir said: “…It says do sunnah, just bleeding no flesh should be cut or just cut a bit” (Married women, Jogbaru).
This belief is strongly held by the Somali community who said: “It is part of the religion of which firooni (infibulation) is not a must, but Sunnah is a must” (Married men). “Islam says just cut a bit, which is Sunnah…” (Married men, Wagberi). Other Islamic terms such as mandoob, mubaah and mashru’u are also used to refer to the practice.
Mandoob means permissible but doing the act is better than not doing it. Mubaah refers to any permitted act in Islam but it has no virtue or sin for commission or omission respectively. Mashru’u, derived from hariah, is used to depict that the practice has an Islamic legal basis.
FGM/C has also been referred to as tohara (ritual cleanliness) in Arabic and Swahili and as dhahara in Somali. The Somali community also uses terms like xalaalin (making lawful) and Islaamin (Islamizing) to emphasize its Islamic status. Arabic speakers refer to circumcised women as mutoharat (cleansed or purified)
and to uncircumcised women as ghulfa’a (unclean or impure). The word khitaan Proponents of FGM/C have translated the Arabic word khitaan, which appears in several religious texts, to refer to both male circumcision and FGM/C. In reality, however, the word only describes male circumcision; FGM/C is actually called khifaadh. However, whenever khitaan appears in a religious text it is used by the proponents to justify an Islamic basis for FGM/C. Interpretation of texts Proponents of FGM/C have misinterpreted certain verses of the Quran to give the practice an Islamic basis. For example, “…and we revealed to you (Oh Muhammad) to follow the milat (religion) of Ibrahim” (Quran: 16:123). This verse orders Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)--and hence all Muslims—to follow the way of life of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). The belief is that because Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was circumcised at the age of 80, it is incumbent upon all Muslims to be circumcised. This verse will be objectively analyzed under the section on Islam and FGM/C to ascertain whether it can be used to justify FGM/C.Proponents also base their arguments on some ahadith15 in which they allege that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) instructed both male and female Muslims to be circumcised. These ahadith will also be analyzed in the section on Islam and FGM/C to establish their authenticity and relevance as a basis for FGM/C. Belief that FGM/C guarantees chastity Chastity is a very important attribute in Islam and Muslims are required to be chaste and morally upright. Proponents of FGM/C believe that women have a burning desire, ghilma, and if their genitalia are not cut they will be sexually uncontrollable. It is also believed that the clitoris and labia minora will grow long and make the women sexually overactive. partial or total removal of these organs is therefore recommended to ensure that women remain chaste throughout their lives. Many Muslims believe that this recommendation conforms to Islamic teachings on chastity. A traditional practitioner argued that an uncircumcised girl or woman “will start chasing men because of her uncontrollable sexual urge, excessive sexual desire, she will be very vulnerable, she has no security and [will] subsequently [be] disgraced. Circumcised girls will not go for another man...” (FGD Traditional circumciser, 2004).
Marriage is a recommended act in Islam and regarded as an important sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who said, “Marriage is my sunnah and whoever shuns this sunnah of mine is not among my people”17. FGM/C is closely linked with a girl’s or woman’s marriageability because circumcised girls are believed to be chaste, their sexual desires controlled, and their virginity ensured, hence making them suitable for marriage. In the Somali community, there is a belief that infibulation (type III) ensures virginity and so a
non-infibulated woman or girl is not considered a virgin. The infibulation is seen as both a preserver of virginity and a sign of virginity. There is the fear that an uncut, noninfibulated girl will not be attractive as a marriage partner.“If the girl is not circumcised, however beautiful she is, she is not wanted by men.He wants or prefers the stitched one, who [he] will be happily busy with through the night. But he will not be happy with the open one. I will do whatever will make them like my daughter; I will stitch her up tight” (Elderly men FGD) Belief that FGM/C ensures ritual cleanliness (tohara) In Islam tohara (ritual cleanliness) is very important and no act of worship is acceptable if a person is not in a state of cleanliness. There is a strong belief that women who are not circumcised cannot attain this state of cleanliness because the clitoris grows long and forms folds of skin, which harbour dirt that cannot be removed.“Those who are not circumcised are dirty, and they will always produce a foul smell, so we are circumcised to be kept clean.” (Newly married women FGD) For the reasons described above, FGM/C has been seen as an Islamic practice for many years. It is therefore imperative to look at what Islamic texts actually say about the practice and to ascertain whether or not it is an Islam practice.
ISLAM AND FGM/C
Islam is a complete way of life and its teachings govern every aspect of a Muslim’s life.Muslims are required to adhere to Islam and apply its teachings in their daily lives. Just as Islam provides guidance for all aspects of human life, it also has guidance on FGM/C and one should seek guidance from the authentic sources on whether or not it is a religious practice.
When an act is considered to be Islamic
Not every act done in the name of Islam is Islamic. Many actions are done for purely cultural reasons but over time they may acquire an Islamic justification, especially among communities that are predominantly Muslim. However an act is only considered to be Islamic if it has a basis in any of the fundamental sources of Islamic guidance. These sources are the following:
• The Holy Quran (The divine words of Allah-SWT20)
• Sunnah: (The deeds, words, or statements of approval of Prophet Muhammad
• Ijma (consensus of scholars);
• Qiyas (analogical deduction).
Like any other issue requiring a clear Islamic verdict, it is necessary to refer to these fundamental sources of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) to establish the basis for the practice of FGM/C. It is critical to establish whether any verses in the Quran can be used as evidence supporting FGM/C. Similarly the traditions (sunnah) of the Prophet (PBUH), which are well documented, should indicate whether or not there are any authentic or relevant traditions that can be used to support the practice. It is also important to determine whether Muslim scholars have ever agreed on a view regarding the practice in line with the guidance from Quran and authentic tradition of the prophet (PBUH). Finally, we should be able to apply the principle of qiyas, or analogical deduction, to establish the basis for FGM/C.
A careful and objective look at the Quran reveals that there is no single verse supporting FGM/C. However, there are verses that proponents of the practice use to support theirstance. Quran 16:123, for example, reads, “…follow the milat (religion) of Ibrahim.” In this verse, Muslims are urged to do all that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) did, including male ircumcision, among many other actions that form part of his milat. However, in the context of circumcision, this verse only applies to male circumcision since there is evidence that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was circumcised at the age of 80. In a Hadith narrated by Abu Hureira (RA21) Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Ibrahim, the friend of Allah, was circumcised when he attained the age of 80 years. And he was circumcised at al-Qaddum” (Bukhari and Muslim) . There is nothing to show that either of the two wives of Prophet Ibrahim (AS), Sarah and Hajar, were circumcised—hence, nothing to support FGM/C although proponents of FGM/C believe that Hajar was circumcised by Sarah. It is alleged that when Hajar conceived, Sarah was jealous and vowed to kill her, but Prophet Ibrahim (AS) advised her to pierce Hajar’s ears and cut part of her genitalia to nullify the oath. This allegation is baseless and is only a myth. Even if, for argument’s sake, it is taken to be true, then Hajar was subjected to circumcision as a punishment, and not as a virtuous act or a tradition. Nor does the story connote a religious requirement or a common practice, because there is no evidence and nothing to show that Sarah herself was circumcised. In conclusion, there is no verse in the Quran that can be used as evidence for this practice. On the contrary, there are several verses that strongly condemn any acts that negatively affect the human body in any way and interfere with Allah’s (SWT) creation without a justification. Examples include, “…and there is no changing Allah’s creation. And that is the proper religion but many people do not know” (Quran 30:30) and, “…and make not your own hands contribute to your destruction” (Quran 2:195) Sunnah Allah (SWT) has ordered Muslims to follow the Prophet (PBUH) as he is the best example for them. Allah (SWT) says: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow…” (Quran: 33: 21). Sunnah means the traditions and way of life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which Muslims are required to follow. If there is any evidence that the Prophet actually did practice FGM/C, or that it was practiced during his lifetime and that he approved of it, then the practice becomes a Sunnah, a tradition to be followed by Muslims either as an obligation or an option.
Sunnah has three categories:
Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) approvals: This refers to anything done or said in his presence of which he approved, either expressly or by implication. Regarding FGM/C, it is important to establish whether it occurred in his presence and whether he approved it so that it becomes a tradition to follow. There is no evidence in any of the authentic traditions of the Prophet approving of FGM/C. There is evidence that one of his companions, Ibnu Abbass (RA), was circumcised, which indicates that he approved male circumcision. In a narration by Said bin Jubeir, Ibnu Abbass was asked how old he was when the Prophet (PBUH) died and he said, “I was circumcised at that time” (Al-Bukhari). There is further evidence that he ordered men who embraced Islam to be circumcised but did not ask women to do the same. In a Hadith narrated by Abu Hureira (RA), the Prophet (PBUH) said, “whenever a man becomes a Muslim he must be circumcised.”
Proponents of FGM/C as an Islamic practice argue that because there is no explicit disapproval of the practice by the Prophet (PBUH), the act is allowed (mubaah), which gives it an Islamic basis. In response to this, it is important to note that the general rule regarding the human body is that nothing whatsoever should be done to it without clear evidence for its justification. This principle is derived from the Quran, which states emphatically that injuring a human organ without justification is punishable by a similar act to deter others. Allah (SWT) says, “…and we have ordained therein for them that a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth and a wound is punishable equal for equal” (Quran: 5: 45). In his sermon during his last pilgrimage (hijjatul widaa) Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was also very explicit about the sanctity of the human body and emphasized that it should not be harmed without justification.
Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) deeds: This refers to what he actually did and Muslims are required to follow these actions. In the context of FGM/C, it is important to establish whether or not females in his household, or those of his companions, were circumcised. The autobiography (siira) of the Prophet (PBUH) is accurately and authentically recorded. However it gives no evidence that the females in his household or those of his companions were circumcised. On the other hand, there is evidence that his two grandsons, Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein, were circumcised at the age of seven days. In a Hadith narrated by Aisha
(RA), one of the wives of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), she said, “The Prophet circumcised Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein on the seventh day after their birth.” But there is no evidence for FGM/C from his deeds.Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) words: Any words spoken by the Prophet (PBUH) through inspiration from Allah (SWT) and with religious implications form part of the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). Many religious practices were established through his sayings. In thisregard, Allah (SWT) has said about the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH), “...Nor does he speak of (his own) desire” (Quran: 53: 3) and “…it is only a revelation revealed” (Quran: 53: 4). Proponents of FGM/C use certain ahadith (sayings) of the Prophet (PBUH), to give the practice, and in particular the so-called Sunnah circumcision, an Islamic basis. However,not everything attributed to the Prophet (PBUH) should be taken at face value but must be verified to establish their authenticity. Scholars with expertise in the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) (ulumm-alhadith) have been able to identify and record sayings that are authentic (sahih) and those that are not. These scholars look at the content (matn) and chain of transmitters (sanad) among other things to ascertain the authenticity. Below is a critical analysis of these ahadith to ascertain whether or not they can be used as evidence for FGM/C in Islam.
1. Hadith of Ummu-Attiya
This is the Hadith most commonly used to link FGM/C to Islam. The Hadith relates that the Prophet (PBUH) said to a woman of Madina called Ummu-Attiyah, "O Umm `Attiyyah, ‘ashimmi’ and do not exaggerate; as doing so will preserve the fairness of the woman’s face and satisfy the husband.” The word “ashimmi” has several meanings, including “to massage with something soft like oil,” “to leave something raised,” “to kiss,” “to smell” or “to place one thing upon another.” However, supporters of FGM/C have taken the word to mean “cutting a small part of the clitoris,” yet the word has no such meaning. There are several versions of this Hadith, but all of them have been declared dhaeef (weak) because the chain of transmitters (sanad) is weak and there is conflict in its meaning. Given the different meanings of the word ‘ashimmi’, it is not clear what the Prophet (PBUH) was telling the woman. However, female genital cutting was not part of his advice as there is no such meaning of the word. As a general rule, no weak Hadith can be used as a justification for anything in Islam, especially when it affects the human body. A leading expert in Islamic jurisprudence
(fiqhi), Ash-Shaukany, argues in his book Nail-al-autwar that the Hadith cannot be used as a basis for FGM/C. Even some proponents of the practice agree that this Hadith of Ummu- Attiyah cannot be used on its own to justify FGM/C; but they argue that other ahadith can be used to corroborate it and thereby elevate its status and remedy the defect. However, experts of ahadith have countered this argument by saying that the defect in the Hadith is such that it cannot be remedied, especially in that it conflicts directly with the Quranic and Prophetic teachings on the sanctity of the human body. In conclusion, this Hadith cannot be used as evidence for FGM/C whatsoever.
2. Hadith of Al-Hajjaj ibnu Arta
In this Hadith it is reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Alkhitaanu (translated as ‘circumcision’) is sunnah for men and an honour (makrumah) for women.” On the face of it, i.e. before verifying its authenticity, the Hadith has two interpretations. The interpretation by proponents of FGM/C is that circumcision is sunnah (an optional act) for males and makrumah (an honourable act) for females. Those who do not support the
practice interpret the Hadith to mean that circumcision is sunnah for men, and when a woman is married to a circumcised (i.e. ritually clean) man, it is an honour for her. It does not mean that it is an honour to subject the woman herself to circumcision. Notwithstanding the two interpretations above, the Hadith has been classified as dhaeef (weak) and cannot be used as evidence for FGM/C. Moreover, the word khitaan, which is in the original Arabic text, is often interpreted, by those in support of the practice, to mean general circumcision (i.e. for both males and females), but in fact it refers strictly to male circumcision. FGM/C in Arabic is called khifaad. If for arguments’ sake, the Hadith is taken to be authentic, which it is not, the second interpretation would be the correct one. Further, for the interpretation preferred by proponents, sunnah is used in reference to male circumcision and not FGM/C, which is referred to as only an honourable act. Thus the argument that FGM/C is sunnah is not supported by this Hadith. Moreover, this Hadith was recorded by Ahmad and Al-Baihaqqy, but one of the narrators in the chain, Al-Hajjaaj bin Artaa33, is muddalis (dishonest) according to experts on Hadith. There is also conflict as to who actually narrated the Hadith. Al-Baihaqqy says that this
Hadith is dhaeef (weak). In his commentary on Ihyaa Uloom al-Deen’ (Revival of the Religious Sciences) by Al-Ghazaliy, Zainul-Abedeen Al-Iraqi said: “Besides the defects mentioned by other scholars on the Hadith, some scholars are of the view that this Hadith is invalid (Baatil), a fabrication (Maudhuu) and a lie (makdhuub) besides being weak (dhaeef)”.
In conclusion, this Hadith has been declared weak and inauthentic and for all these reasons, the Hadith fails the test of being an authentic basis for justifying FGM/C according to the experts. A Hadith with such defects cannot be used as a basis for any act in Islam, especially an act that adversely affects a person’s health and well-being, notwithstanding the fact that there is no FGM/C referred to in the Hadith. 3. Hadith of Abdalla ibnu Umar This Hadith says that the women of Al-Ansar (the residents of Madina) were enjoined to practice FGM/C. However, this Hadith has been declared as weak by scholars such as Ash-Shaukany, because its chain of transmitters include Mindal ibnu Ali, who is deemed to be a weak narrator, and ibnu Addy who is even weaker36. This Hadith cannot be used as a justification for FGM/C.
4. The Hadith of Aisha (RA)
In this Hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said,”if the two circumcisions (alkhitaanani) meet (il-tiqaa), then it is obligatory to take ghusl (ritual bath)”. In another narration, Aisha (RA) said that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “if he settles between her four limbs then the two circumcisions touch (mass) then it is obligatory to take ghusl (Sahih Muslim &Tirmidhy). This Hadith, in all its versions, is authentic and is found under the chapter of tohara (ritual cleanliness) in all books of fiqhi (Islamic jurisprudence). Proponents consider this Hadith to be one of the strongest justifications for FGM/C in Islam. They take the term khitaan to mean circumcision in general and therefore khitaanani to mean two circumcisions i.e. for male and female. The Hadith is on sexual intercourse (deduced from the words mass i.e. touching and iltiqaa i.e. meeting and since the only accepted sexual intercourse in Islam is heterosexual, it follows (for the proponents) that the
female organ is circumcised hence the basis for FGM/C. Scholars have looked objectively at the Hadith and have concluded that although the Hadith is authentic, it cannot be a basis for FGM/C for the following reasons:
a. The Hadith is found under the chapter on “tohara” (ritual purification or cleanliness) in all the books of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqhi) and the collections of ahadith. This means that the Hadith discusses purification, not circumcision. The message in the Hadith is that it is obligatory to take a ritual bath after sexual intercourse.
b. The terms used in the Hadith, khitaanani (literally, the two male circumcisions) , iltiqaa (literally meeting) and mass (literally touching), are majaaz (metaphors) whereby khitaanani refers metaphorically to the male and female sexual organs, but using the description of the one that is required to be circumcised i.e., the male organ, and both il-tiqaa and mass metaphorically refer to sexual intercourse.
c. Therefore it is erroneous to take the Hadith on its literal meaning—that a ritual bath becomes obligatory when male and female sexual organs merely meet or touch. Here the words “meeting/touching” must be understood in the context of Islamic jurisprudence. Taking a ritual bath after sexual intercourse only becomes obligatory if one or both of the following happens:
• When there is penetration. Abu Hureira (RA) reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said,“If the man sits between her four limbs and he penetrates her then ghusul (ritual bath) is a must whether he discharges or not…” (Sahih Muslim).
• When one ejaculates. Abi Saiid narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Water with water…” (Sahih Muslim). That is why it is obligatory to take a bath after a wet dream. This was narrated in the Hadith of Ummu-Salama (RA), in which a woman called Ummu-Suleim asked the Prophet (PBUH) whether or not a woman who has a wet dream will have to take a ritual bath and he answered, “Naam (yes)…” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim).
d. Further, there is consensus that whether or not one or both spouses are circumcised,the bath would still be obligatory to clean themselves for worship (ibada) if one or both of the above occurs.
e. Furthermore, the term khitaan in Arabic strictly refers to male circumcision and FGM/C is referred to as khifaadh as earlier explained. The term khitaanani, though in dual, is not evidence for FGM/C because the use of one word or quality to refer to two different persons or things is an acceptable Arabic language style. In this case khitaanani refers to the male and female organs but which are different with respect to circumcision i.e. male is circumcised, the female is not. The feature of the more common or prominent one i.e. male circumcision is used. Other examples of such usage include:
i. Al-umareyn…(the two Umars) referring to two close companions of the Prophet (Abubakar and Umar). The Prophet (PBUH) called these two companions “Umareyn,” yet they were two different individuals.
ii. Al-Bahreyn (two seas) referring to the sea (bahr) and river (nahr)
iii. Alqamareyn… (the two moons), referring to the sun (al-Shams) and the moon (alqamar).
iv. Al-ishaeyn… (the two ishas) referring to isha42 and maghrib43 prayers.
v. Al-aswadeyn (the two black things) referring to water and dates.
In conclusion, this Hadith cannot be used as a basis for FGM/C because its subject is ritual purification (tohara) and not circumcision. Moreover, the root word used as a basis is khitaan which is male circumcision and which also takes the form khitaanani due to the style of Arabic language, not because it refers to two literal circumcisions. This is further strengthened by the fact that there is no evidence of FGM/C from the household of theProphets.
5. The Hadith of Abu Hureira In this Hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said, “Five are among the natural dispositions (fitra) to be observed by Muslims. These are: alkhitaan, shaving of the pubic hair, trimming the moustache, cutting nails and plucking of the hair under the armpits.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, An-Nasai, Ahmad and At-Tirmidhy).This Hadith is also found under the chapter of tohara (ritual cleanliness) in all the books of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqhi) and the collections of ahadith. It is heavily relied upon by proponents as a religious basis for FGM/C. The Hadith is authentic but does not in any way
constitute evidence for FGM/C as an Islamic practice for the following reasons:
a. The five natural acts referred to in the Hadith do not apply equally to both men and women. Those that apply to both are: shaving pubic hair, clipping nails and plucking armpit hair. Shortening of the moustache and khitaan are specific to men as women do not naturally grow moustache and the word khitaan refers to male circumcision, as explained earlier.
b. The khitaan mentioned in the Hadith is male circumcision that is supported by the Quran in the verse referred to earlier, “…and we revealed to you (Oh Muhammad) to follow the milat (religion) of Ibrahim” (Quran: 16:123) which is male circumcision. Proponents, however, take this word to mean general circumcision, for both males and females.
c. The sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) supports male circumcision and not FGM/C. He would not have contradicted his own deeds by ordering Muslims to observe FGM/C while he himself did not observe it. If FGM/C were one of the Islamic rites he would have been the first one to observe it himself, just as he observed male circumcision and enjoined others to do it. From this analysis it can be concluded that:
• This authentic Hadith cannot be used as evidence for FGM/C.
• FGM/C is not one of the natural dispositions that Muslims are required to observe.
Thus, it is clear that there is no authentic and relevant sunnah to support FGM/C; it is wrong, therefore, to link it to the practices of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and indeed any other Prophet. Above all, FGM/C is not supported by the deeds of Prophets Mohammed and Ibrahim (PBUT) and it is not conceivable that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would order something he himself did not do. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Prophet (PBUH) subjected any of his daughters or wives to FGM/C, nor is there any evidence to show that the wives and daughters of his companions were circumcised. If the Prophet (PBUH)
endorsed FGM/C among the females in his family, the practice would be well known and widespread among all Muslims, just as the circumcision of males – as seen through his two grandsons, al-Hassan and al-Hussein for example- is well known and widespread among Muslims. Further, if FGM/C were a religious requirement, the Prophet (PBUH) would not have been silent about it, as his mission was to propagate the teachings of the religion.Allah (SWT) commanded him to do so in the Quran, “Oh you messenger [Muhammad] proclaim [the message] which has been sent down to you from your lord. And if you do not
then you have not conveyed His message” (Quran: 5: 67). The Prophet (PBUH) faithfully carried out his mission of propagating the religion and taught about correct Islamic behaviour in all aspects of life, including toilet manners, table manners, relations between husband and wife, and so on. It is not logical therefore that he would be silent on a matter that affects an important human reproductive organ. Muslims are warned to be careful not to associate the Prophet (PBUH) to any deed or saying without ascertaining its correctness and authenticity. He has strongly warned against making allegations about his actions and sayings unless one is certain of the authenticity. He said, “Whoever deliberately makes false allegations about me should prepare his seat in hellfire…” (Al-Bukhari, ahadith Nos. 106, 109 and 110).
Ijma’a (consensus by scholars)
In Islamic jurisprudence, the term ijma’a refers to the consensus of the views of scholars of the time. According to this principle, when it is established that there is a consensus on a religious issue or practice, this consensus becomes a basis for supporting the issue, as long as the consensus does not conflict with the Quran or an authentic sunnah. In this regard, if it is established that scholars have built consensus on the religious status (hukmu Shari’i) of FGM/C, that consensus would be a basis for it. amination of all the texts on Islamic jurisprudence (fiqhi) shows that scholars have no consensus on FGM/C. For example the four schools of thought express the following views:
• The Hanafi view is that it is a sunnah (optional act) for both females and males;
• Maliki hold the view that it is wajib (obligatory) for males and sunnah (optional) for females;
• Shafi’i view it as wajib (obligatory) for both females and males;
• Hanbali have two opinions:
- it is wajib (obligatory) for both males and females
- it is wajib (obligatory) for males and makrumah (honourable) for females.
Other scholars have expressed a variety of views on what FGM/C entails. For example, according to Ash-Shaukany46, a leading Muslim scholar, FGM/C is sunnah and entails anything that can be called “a cut.” Al-Mawardy also holds it as sunnah and describes it as cutting the skin that appears like a hood or the comb of a cock, immediately above the vagina. The following are some of the views given by other leading scholars who support the practice:
1. In his book of fatawa (decrees), Ibnu Taymiya said that FGM/C is Islamic and the part that is cut is the uppermost skin that appears like the comb of a cock (see Fatawa Vol.21 p. 114).
2. According to the permanent committee on fatawa and research in Saudi Arabia, circumcision is for both males and females but wajib for the males and sunnah for females (see Fatawa vol. 5, p. 32).
3. Al-Fatawa Al-Islamia (Islamic Verdicts), Vol.9, pp. 3119 - 3125, says that FGM/C is part of Islam and that no scholar has said that it should not be practiced on the females as per the Hadith of Um-Atiyya. There is nothing in Islam, these scholars say, which prohibits the circumcision of females.
On the other hand, there are several views by equally prominent scholars and institutions opposing FGM/C.
1. Sheikh Sayyid Sabiq said in his book Fiqh As-Sunnah (vol. 1, p. 33), "ahadith stating the legality of FGM/C are dhaeef; none of them is sahih (i.e. authentic)."
2. Sheikh Tantawy - “There is consensus among scholars that male circumcision is part of the religion. There is proof that the grandsons of the Prophet (PBUH), Al- Hassan and Al-Hussein, were circumcised. There is no such evidence for FGM/C.”
3. Sheikh. Mohammed Arafa - “Scholars are researching FGM/C and its effects. So far research has proved that the organs cut have a very important role. Cutting of these organs has led to complications and in some cases, the use of drugs. Supposing, for argument’s sake, that the ahadith cited to support the practice are authentic. We would still have to deal with the problem of the extent of the ‘cut’ as it is not clear”.
4. In his book "Al-Fatawa" (the Fatwas), under the title "FGM/C," (pp. 2, 3), Sheikh Shaltoot said ”There is no single piece of evidence that it is part of the sunnah.””
5. Sheikh. Abubakar Aljazaairy from the Mosque of the Prophet (PBUH) -”The khitaan mentioned in the Hadith on the five natural things clearly refers to male circumcision.”
It is clear that there is no consensus among Muslim scholars on the subject, so there is nothing that can be used as evidence on the basis of ijma’a or scholarly consensus to support FGM/C. However, supporters of the practice have argued that the scholars do not differ on whether or not the practice is Islamic; but rather on its status as to whether it is wajib (obligatory), sunnah (optional), mustahab (recommended), or makrumah
(honourable) thereby giving it the status of mubaah (permitted). They have further argued that since none of the scholars have said it is haram (prohibited), it is wrong to say that FGM/C is un-Islamic and that it is at least a mubaah (permissible) act.
Scholarly consensus is not in itself a basis and is not independent of the provisions of the Quran and authentic sunnah. Whereas the Quran and authentic sunnah are revealed sources of Islam, and are thus protected from error, ijma’a is a human effort by scholars to understand revealed text and apply it to issues or situations affecting the community. Scholars’ views should not be taken at face value but should be critically analyzed in the light of the revealed sources. Several leading scholars have commented on the opinions supporting FGM/C. For example, Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-Awa, in his book ‘FGM/C: an Islamic Perspective’, said, “Scholars’understanding of the religious text is purely a human intellectual effort. Their interpretation cannot be viewed as the divine law itself and therefore cannot be used as a religious justification for any act. It is merely the scholar’s understanding of the text and applying it to the subject within a specific situation. A scholar is not ma’asoom (infallible)” since infallibility (isma) in Islam is an attribute for angels and Prophets.
When a scholar’s views conflict with the provisions of the Quran and authentic sunnah,these views cannot be accepted. A scholars’ view could be right or wrong— as admitted by Shafi’i himself, a leading scholar and founder of one of the four schools of Islamic thought, who said, ”My opinion is right but likely to be wrong, and the opinion of others is wrong but likely to be right.”
Is FGM/C mubaah (permissible)?
In Islamic jurisprudence (fiqhi), an act can be either wajib (obligatory), sunnah (optional),mubaah (permissible), makruh (abhorred) or haram (prohibited). Mubaah refers to a lawful or permissible act whose commission or omission earns neither virtue nor sin respectively. In an effort to give FGM/C a religious basis, some proponents are of the opinion that it is mubaah or permissible, arguing that there is no explicit provision in either The Quran or sunnah prohibiting the practice and that none of the scholars has said it is haram (prohibited or abhorred). Acts that are mubaah or allowed must fulfil certain conditions, including the following:
i. They should not conflict with provisions of the Quran and authentic sunnah. FGM/C clearly conflicts with provisions that prohibit interfering with the sanctity of the human body by changing creation and causing harm; therefore it cannot be mubaah.
ii. They should not be harmful to the individual or the society; a harmful act ceases to be mubaah. It has been medically proven that FGM/C is harmful in all its types. It may be that the scholars who called it mubaah were not aware of those harms, possibly because of the limit to scientific knowledge at the time of giving the verdict. And it is an Islamic principle that once one gets to know the wrong in an act, they should cease
doing it forthwith; hence wrong cannot be too old. Today, there is enough scientific proof that FGM/C is harmful and should thus not be allowed.
iii. Mubaah does not apply to anything done to the human body since the general rule in Islam is that it is unlawful to interfere with the human body in any way without explicit evidence supporting such an act (al-aslu fii jismul insaan at-tahrim).
iv. The so-called sunnah (mubaah) FGM/C is said to be something ‘mild’ or ‘small’. But in Islam, if it is haram (prohibited) to do something, it is in totality and there is no small or bit of it allowed. Just like it is haram to drink beer, whether a sip or a glass or full crate, so is pouring of innocent blood, whether through a pin-prick, a slight cut or removing organs.
v. The proponents have used the principal of mubaah (i.e al-aslu fil ashiyaai al ibahathe general rule on things is they are permissible) to conclude that FGM/C is permissible (mubaah). However this principal is only applicable to things or acts that are for the use of human beings unless the contrary is proved i.e. with evidence that they are prohibited. It does not apply to the human body since the general rule is that
anything done to the body is prohibited unless there is evidence to allow (see iii above).
FGM/C cannot be mubaah, therefore, as it causes harm and changes the human creation. It is wrong to say that FGM/C is not prohibited, since provisions in the Quran and authentic Sunnah explicitly condemn any act that causes harm to the human body or in any way changes the creation of Allah (SWT) without justification. These prohibitions are applicable to FGM/C.
QIYAS (analogical deduction)
This is a principle of Islamic jurisprudence which involves comparing acts or situations with common features (I’lla51) where one act is decreed upon and the other is not, and the verdict on the former is applied to the latter. An example would be a comparison between alcohol and heroin. Alcohol has been explicitly declared unlawful, but there is no direct condemnation of heroin. But since both share a common feature i.e. they are intoxicants-- and alcohol has been declared unlawful because it intoxicates, heroin is also declared unlawful in Islam because, like alcohol, it is an intoxicant. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “every alcohol is an intoxicant and all intoxicants are prohibited” (Sahih Bukhari). Proponents have argued that FGM/C is Islamic because, through the principle of qiyas, the practice can be compared with male circumcision. However, such comparison cannot be made between male circumcision and FGM/C as they do not share a common feature or cause (I’llat). Comparison between them shows that:
a. Male circumcision has an indisputable basis in Islam and is therefore an Islamic act. FGM/C has no such basis and cannot be called Islamic.
b. FGM/C conflicts with the teachings of Islam regarding the sanctity of the human body, whereas male circumcision is in conformity with religious teachings.
c. Male circumcision is not controversial and is universally practiced by all Muslims, unlike FGM/C, which is controversial and practiced by only some Muslim communities.
d. What is cut in males is a skin that has no essential function, whereas in females, functional organs are either removed or interfered with.
e. The extent of the part removed in male circumcision is clearly defined and universally accepted by all Muslims. In FGM/C, by contrast, the extent and part to be cut is not defined and is at the discretion of individuals, hence the variation from one community to another. If FGM/C was Islamic, the extent of cutting would be clearly defined, as is the case with male circumcision.
f. There are proven benefits (religious and medical) to male circumcision, but no benefits for FGM/C, only clearly evident harm.
By looking at all the fundamental sources, it is clear that there is no authentic basis for FGM/C in Islam. There is not a single verse in the Quran that can be used as a basis for FGM/C; on the contrary, there are many verses that condemn the practice. There is no authentic tradition from the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in support of FGM/C. Scholars have divergent views on the practice; some have referred to it as wajib (obligatory), while others view it as makrumah (an honourable act). Qiyas is not applicable since there is no common feature between male circumcision, which has a basis in Islam, and FGM/C. It is thus clear that FGM/C can only be regarded as a cultural practice rather than a religious one.
ISLAMIC TEACHINGS THAT COUNTER FGM/C
Besides the absence of a supporting basis for FGM/C in the fundamental sources of Islamic guidance, there are many fundamental Islamic teachings that are contradicted by the practice. These form important arguments that can be used to counter the practice.FGM/C contravenes the objectives of Shariah Islamic Shariah, which provides the guiding principles of Islam, aims at preserving the following:
Anything that affects any of these objectives adversely is prohibited in Islam. FGM/C has a direct negative impact on all the five objectives of Shariah, for example girls and women are known to have died after the operation as a result of complications arising from FGM/C, both immediately and in the long term. Because there is no justification for the practice, it is considered a direct breach of the objectives of Shariah hence it is un-Islamic and anybody practicing it is sinning.
Allah (SWT) condemns those who change His creation
Among the many justifications for FGM/C is the belief that it beautifies the female genitalia.Respondents in one of the studies carried out in North Eastern Province said, “I will circumcise my daughter because I don’t want people to say that my girl is empty, I want her to be beautiful and her thing [to be] shiny like a mirror,” and “You know, this clitoris grows with the body of the girl. They don’t want to see that thing, it will look abnormal, and it becomes ugly.” This shows the belief by many proponents that unless the female genitalia is cut, it will grow ugly and long. This belief conflicts with the teachings of Islam, according to which Allah (SWT) says, “Verily we created man of the best stature” (Quran: 96:4). Therefore the beauty of a human body is to be left as it was created by Allah (SWT) unless there is an authentic basis allowing interference with it. According to the Quran, any act that amounts to changing Allah’s creation is considered the work of Satan. FGM/C involves cutting healthy functional organs and changing the look of the female genitalia without any religious basis, which Allah (SWT) strongly condemns. He has even condemned those who interfere with the organs of animals and has cursed Iblis (Satan) who said, “Verily I will mislead them and surely arouse in them false desires and I will order them to slit the ears of cattle and indeed I will order them to change the nature created by Allah…”(Quran: 4: 119). In the same verse, Allah (SWT) warns those who follow Satan in such acts and says, “...whoever forsaking Allah, takes Satan for a friend has surely suffered a loss” (Quran: 4: 119). The Prophet (PBUH) also said, “Allah has cursed those who curve their teeth and those who
elongate their hair with additions and those who change God’s creation”
Causing harm is unlawful
Islam condemns all harmful and destructive practices—female infanticide, for example. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran, “and when the girl child who was buried alive shall be asked ‘for what sin was she killed’” (Quran: 89: 8-9). It has been proved medically that FGM/C, even in its mildest form, is harmful because it interferes with the normal functions of the female genitalia. Each of the organs affected by FGM/C (clitoris, labia minora, labia majora) has a specific purpose, and any interference with them affects their functioning and purpose. Guiding principles in Shariah state that:
• La dharar wala dhirar (Cause no harm and do not reciprocate harm). FGM/C is a harmful practice that should be avoided. Allah says in the Quran: “…And do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction…” (2:195).
• If an action has both benefits and harms, it is allowed if the benefits outweigh the harms. In male circumcision, for example, the cutting of the skin, the accompanying pain, and the shedding of blood may be viewed as harmful. However, male circumcision has been proven to be a religious practice and that the resulting benefits are also significant. These benefits are both religious (male circumcision enhances cleanliness) and medical (male circumcision can reduce penile cancer and HIV transmission). FGM/C on the other hand, does the exact opposite, by interfering with religious cleanliness and causing proven harm.
• Adh-dhararu la yuzaalu bi mithlihi/ Adh-dhararul ash-shadu yuzaalu bi dhararin al-akhaf (a harm or evil is not removed or stopped by causing a similar or greater harm). In this context, the assumed harm or evil, in the view of the proponents of FGM/C, is that the clitoris will grow long and become ugly and smell. The ensuing harms from FGM/C far much outweigh the perceived benefits.
Islam condemns harmful cultural practices
One of the reasons given to sustain the practice of FGM/C is that it is a cultural practice of the communities that observe it. “It is our tradition that a girl must be circumcised and stitched…” (Married women, Jobgaru.
Islam does not outlaw or prohibit all cultural practices; Muslims are free to continue with their traditional cultures and practices as long as they do not conflict with the teachings of Islam. This is why certain Arab customs that existed before Islam have been retained, while others were condemned. Likewise, Muslims from all tribes and communities are required to assess their cultures, continue what is in conformity with Islam, and avoid anything that is in conflict. For a cultural practice to be upheld by Islam, it has to fulfil two important conditions. These are:
• It should not be in conflict with the teachings of Islam.
• It should not be harmful to either the individual or the society at large. According to Islamic teachings, cultural practices are considered as follows:
• Cultural practices in conformity with the teachings of Islam are confirmed as Islamic practices. For example, hospitality, chastity, respect to the elderly and helping the poor, which are upheld in many cultures, are in conformity with Islam.
• Cultural practices that are in conflict with Islam are either changed to conform to it or totally eradicated (e.g. polygamy was regulated; female infanticide was eradicated).
FGM/C conflicts with Islamic teachings on the sanctity of the human body and hence is totally unacceptable. It is also a deeply rooted cultural practice, and many community members say that they have been practicing it for a long time, so it cannot be stopped. Some Somalis claim “it is hard for Somalis to stop pharaonic circumcision. It has been there and it is difficult to stop it. It will continue, it will take a very long time for change to happen…” and, “We know the religion does not agree with us but people are very strong with the
tradition.” This is countered by the Islamic teaching that harm cannot be too old; that is, old practices cannot be justified if they are harmful. The moment one discovers that they have been doing wrong, one is supposed to stop, regardless of the age of the practice. The Quran mentions instances when communities adamantly supported their wrong actions, saying that they would continue these practices as their forefathers did. Allah (SWT) says, “And when it is said to them, ’follow what Allah has revealed’ they say rather we will follow that which we found our fathers doing...” (Quran: 2: 170). Allah (SWT) condemns this reasoning and in the same verse asks whether the people will follow their forefathers“…even if your fathers did not comprehend anything and they were not properly guided?”(Quran: 2: 170). FGM/C has no religious basis; it is a purely cultural practice that conflicts with Islamic teachings. It is a fundamental teaching of Islam that where there is conflict between religion and a cultural practice, Islam takes precedence. FGM/C is in conflict with Islamic
teachings and should therefore be stopped.Women have a right to a healthy body and enjoyment of matrimonial sexual relations One of the reasons for practicing FGM/C is the belief that it controls sexual desires in women and girls, hence making them chaste. It is a common belief among many practicing communities that those who are not cut have excess sexual desires and hence “…will start chasing men because of her uncontrollable sexual urge, excessive sexual desire, and she will be very vulnerable, she has no security and [will] subsequently [be] disgraced. Circumcised girls will not go for another man...” (FGM practitioner) Sexual desires are natural and God-given. Islam is not against sex, but provides directions on how sexual desires should be satisfied, recognizing that both husband and wife have the right to sexual enjoyment. Islam does not allow practices that will adversely affect the enjoyment of sex within marriage. Various provisions from both the Quran and Sunnah provide guidance on enjoyment of sex within marriage. The Quranic directives on sexual relations between a husband and a wife have been interpreted to include foreplay. Allah (SWT) says, “Your wives are as a tilth (garden) for you so approach your tilth when or how
you will, but do some good acts for your souls beforehand…” (Quran: 2:223). The Prophet (PBUH) said, “When a man has sexual intercourse with his wife, he should be at the same pace with her. If he satisfies his desires before her, he should not withdraw until she has also satisfied herself…” (Hadith Anas Ibnu Malik).
Proponents of FGM/C, when asked about the benefit of FGM/C, claim that it reduces the sexual desires of women and thus ensures chastity. While Islam upholds chastity, it does not accept mutilation of organs as a means to assuring it. All types of FGM/C affect women’s sexual functioning and thus interfere with women’s God-given right to fully enjoy sex.
Do not punish the innocent
As earlier stated, many supporters of FGM/C believe that it controls sexual desires in girls and women by limiting their libido. However, this is not acceptable as it amounts to punishing an innocent person in anticipation that she might commit the crime of fornication or adultery (zinaa). This is comparable to amputating hands of people, in countries where Shariah is applied, for fear that they might steal in future. This is an injustice and no one should be punished for an offence not yet committed. In Islam, there is no administration of punishment until it is proven that a crime has been committed. Further, there are provisions for the penalties for adultery and fornication; mutilation of the genitalia is not among them. Besides, it is the human brain that is in control and responsible for actions and not organs; hence desires, whether sexual or otherwise, are controlled by the brain and no amount of mutilation can ensure chastity if the brain decides otherwise. Islamic upbringing of children (tarbiyya) ensures chastity. Proponents of the practice claim that FGM/C ensures chastity and moral uprightness by controlling sexual desires, linking it to the Islamic requirements of chastity and moral uprightness. Islam recognizes that desires, whether sexual or otherwise, are controlled by the brain and not by the body. It therefore lays emphasis on good upbringing (tarbiyya) and moral teachings to control chastity. FGM/C has no relationship with discipline or moral uprightness of children since observation of practicing communities shows that many circumcised girls fail to control their sexual desires and engage in sex outside marriage. On the other hand, there are many uncircumcised girls who are chaste and morally upright. It is degrading to all females to be considered to be people who are not able to control their actions and sexual desires and therefore must have parts of their genitalia mutilated to
control them. It should be borne in mind that chastity in Islam is a requirement for both males and females, as females alone cannot uphold chastity in the community. No one has claimed that male circumcision controls sexual desires in males; indeed, it is often said to enhance their sexuality. It is ironic that communities that want to control their females’ sexuality also want to enhance the sexuality of their males. Both must adhere to the Islamic requirements of chastity and morality through a moral upbringing. It is important to note that the Prophet (PBUH) in his teachings puts strong emphasis on the upbringing of children and the environment in which the child grows. Ensuring that a child receives proper Islamic tarbiyya is an amana (trust) on parents, guardians, and society at large. The Prophet (PBUH) says, “All of you are guardians and each guardian will
be asked to account for what was entrusted to him.”To ensure that children grow up to be chaste and to behave morally, Islam enjoins parents and guardians to emphasize tarbiyya which entails:
i. Educating the child, as Islam puts emphasis on knowledge. The Prophet (PBUH) says, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation on all Muslims65.” In another narration he has said, “Whoever follows a path to seek knowledge, Allah makes easy for him or her, the path to Janah (paradise).”
ii. Giving the child Islamic religious knowledge from a very tender age. Instilling consciousness of Allah (SWT) i.e. taqwa, knowing one’s rights and duties, knowing how to relate to the creator and fellow human beings, and differentiating right from wrong.
iii. Enjoining the child to do what is good and shun what is evil.
iv. Teaching the child the importance of good character (akhlaq).
v. Encouraging the child to observe acts of worship (ibada) from a tender age to instil discipline and obedience.
vi. Ensuring that the child has good friends, and protecting him or her from bad influences.
vii. Always reminding the child about the importance of chastity and honour by citing role models of people who were chaste and narrating how Allah (SWT) will be pleased with them, giving such examples as that of Prophet Yussuf (AS) and Maryam (RA), the mother of Prophet Issa (AS).
viii. Emphasize the importance of Islamic dress code from a tender age. Infibulation interferes with ritual cleanliness (tohara)
Many proponents believe that FGM/C enhances cleanliness. “Those who are not circumcised are dirty, and they will always produce a foul smell, so we are circumcised to be kept clean.” (Newly married women FGD) However, the practice of cutting and infibulating girls and women, practiced by some Muslim communities, adversely affects their tohara (ritual cleanliness) because infibulated women cannot attain purity as required by Islam after toilet use. Instead of jetting out naturally, urine trickles down under the skin created by infibulation covering the urethral opening. It is impossible to clean underneath this skin because the opening for releasing urine and menstrual flow is so small. Without tohara, worship (ibada) in Islam is not accepted. Girls and women who are infibulated are thus denied the right to worship and, by extension, are denied the primary purpose for which they were created. Allah (SWT) says, “I have only created jinns and men that they may worship me…” (Quran:51:56). FGM/C violates girls’ and women’s human rights Human rights are divine rights to which all human beings are entitled, by virtue of being human. Islam upholds the rights, dignity and wellbeing of every human being. It has been established that FGM/C violates women’s and girl’s rights as recognized by Islam. Some of these rights affected by the practice are: Right to life FGM/C results in grievous harm and can lead to death during or after the procedure — from infection, for example, or from loss of blood. Surprisingly, some proponents of the practice argue that if death occurs due to FGM/C, it is God’s will. However, this argument does not conform to the teachings of Islam, which require that we do whatever is humanly possible to avoid harm. In this regard Allah (SWT) says in the Quran, “And do not with your own hands destroy yourselves (Quran: 2:195).” The right to a healthy body Islam upholds the sanctity of the human body. No one has the right to mutilate or cause pain or harm to a human body – their own or another person’s. No parent or guardian has rights over a daughter’s body, as he or she does not own it. Religious scholars must take up their role and educate parents and guardians that the care and upbringing of children does not include mutilating children’s bodies. Right to lead a healthy life Every human being has the right to live a life free from pain and harm. FGM/C leads to many health complications arising from the interference with the normal functioning of the girl’s body, as the organs affected have numerous nerve endings and are highlysensitive. FGM/C adversely affects the health and wellbeing of the girls and women throughout their lives and is an infringement of their rights. Right to enjoy sex. The teachings of Islam emphasize that a woman, just like a man, has the right to enjoy sex within marriage. FGM/C affects organs in the female genitalia that play an important role in sexuality. The clitoris, for example, has a primary function of aiding women’s sexual enjoyment and its removal or alteration affects sexual functioning. This is a violation of women’s right to enjoy sex and therefore not acceptable in Islam. Right to worship According to Islam, human beings were created to worship Allah (SWT), and every person has the right to worship. Anything that denies a person this is an infringement of their basic right. The type of circumcision that is common in the Horn of Africa, especially among Somalis, is the severest form (type III), infibulation, which denies the girl or woman the possibility of cleansing herself after toilet or during menstrual flow and thus denies her the right to attain tohara (ritual cleanliness) for worship. Right to make a choice .In some communities such as the Somali and Africa at large, girls are subjected to FGM/C at a very young age: between four and ten years and sometimes earlier. At this age, the girl has no legal capacity to choose or give consent, especially on matters affecting her body. Moreover, the girl is rarely consulted and it is assumed that the parent or guardian has the right to decide what is to be done to her. According to Islamic Shariah, this is a serious breach of a girl’s right to make a choice in life. From the above examples, it is clear that FGM/C is not in conformity with the human rights supported by Islam. Islam stands for the protection and promotion of human rights and cannot condone any practice that breaches them. Such violations are criminal and are therefore punishable in this world and the hereafter. Efforts must be made to correct ills in the community Some scholars and some members of the community, having been convinced that FGM/C has no Islamic basis, agree that it should be stopped, but say that only Allah (SWT) can save the community to end the practice. However, it is a requirement in Islam to trust in Allah (SWT) and pray for His intervention, but also to do what is humanly possible to correct a wrong. One cannot simply wish away the problem, as Allah (SWT) says: “…Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (Quran: 13: 11).
Religious scholars have a responsibility to correct ills in the community.Religious scholars are the appropriate people to provide leadership on matters pertaining to the teachings of Islam, as they are blessed with the knowledge of reading, understanding and interpreting religious text. However, the scholars have not been able to address the practice for several reasons. A major reason is that scholars have inadequate information
on the female genitalia, their functions, and the effects of FGM/C on the health and wellbeing of the women and girls. This is due to the secrecy surrounding the practice as well as “shyness” to approach the issue. Few scholars want to discuss the subject as they view it as a shameful and degrading subject, and they do not see it as a priority problem. For scholars to appreciate the magnitude of the problem and play their rightful role, they must seek information from experts. The guidance of Islam is that individuals should seek information from experts to be able to make informed decisions. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran, “...so ask those who know if you know not” (Quran: 16: 43). In the context of FGM/C, once a medical doctor, as the expert on the human body, gives a view on the harm ensuing from the practice, the religious scholars are required to apply the divine law to this knowledge. The verse above shows that although religious scholars have the knowledge to give verdicts on whether or not FGM/C is Islamic, they must seek the expert opinion of
medical doctors to understand the functions of the female genital organs and the effect of any interference with them. In this way, they will fully understand what FGM/C entails when giving their verdicts. Religious scholars should rely on the expert view of medical doctors to guide their verdicts and should not base their views on public opinion. Religious scholars have an obligation to use this evidence and apply the relevant divine law, i.e. the teachings of Islam on harmful practices and to declare FGM/C un-Islamic.
Do not succumb to community pressure
Many scholars in Muslim communities that practice FGM/C know that the practice has no religious basis and contradicts religious teachings. However, these scholars have not been able to come out in public to condemn the practice. This is mainly due to pressure from the community and the fear of losing respect. They know that the practice has been wrongly associated with Islam; they are endowed with Islamic knowledge but they shy away from their responsibility to discourage the practice. Islamic guidance requires that one should not succumb to community pressure at the expense of disobeying Allah (SWT). When there is a conflict between the divine teachings of Allah (SWT) and the interest of the community, the former must take precedence. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran, “It is not for a male believer or a female believer, once Allah and His messenger have decreed on something, for them to have an option in it. And whoever disobeys Allah and His messenger he has surely strayed” (Quran: 33: 36). In Islam, an evil or harm must be removed or stopped: adhararu yuzaalu. The Quran states, “You are the best of people evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong and believing in Allah…” (Quran: 3: 110). This is also based on the teaching of the Prophet (PBUH) that any harmful thing should be removed through any possible means. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever amongst you sees an evil thing must remove it with his hands, but if he is unable he removes with word of mouth, but if he is unable he hates it with his heart and that is the weakest of iman”.
The origins of FGM/C is not Islamic
The exact origin of FGM/C is not known, even to some of the practicing communities70. The most radical form, infibulation, which the Somali community practices, is called pharaonic circumcision. Though the name suggests that the practice started in ancient Egypt with the pharaohs, there is no certainty that it started there or in another part of Africa. Even so, according to this view, it is alleged that one of the Pharaohs71 was told by soothsayers that a male child would be born among the Israelites who would bring his kingdom to an end. He ordered the killing of all Israelite boys and to ensure that every Israelite woman would need a midwife when delivering, he ordered that they should be infibulated, hence the term ‘pharaonic circumcision’. This would ensure that the Pharaoh would learn of the birth of any boy and be able to have him killed. If this is true, the practice pre-dates Islam and there is no benefit for Muslims to copy such a practice. Another historical claim among proponents of FGM/C is that the practice can be traced back to Sarah and Hajar, wives of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). Sarah remained childless for a long time. When Hajar, the second wife, had a son, Sarah swore to kill her. It is claimed that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) told Sarah that it was not right to kill Hajar, but to clear the oath she could pierce Hajar’s ears and cut part of her genitalia. There is no authenticity to this story. At best it can be said to be a myth to show that the first woman to be circumcised was Hajar and the circumciser was Sarah. Even if the story is true, the circumcision was done as a punishment and out of jealousy and not as a tradition. Further, if it was a practice that was ongoing, who circumcised Sarah herself? This only confirms the non-Islamic nature of the practice. Both Muslims and non-Muslims practice FGM/C for different reasons. For some it is a rite of passage, for others it is a mark of cultural identity, but most Muslim communities believe that FGM/C is an Islamic practice. However FGM/C is not practiced in many Muslim countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Algeria and Pakistan, to name but a few. In Kenya and most African Countries, some non-Muslim communities practice FGM/C and some Muslim non-Somali communities do not. Thus, the practice is not limited to Muslims and cannot be considered Islamic.
The teachings of Islam provide overwhelming evidence that FGM/C is not a religious practice and that Islam condemns it. Nevertheless, it is still supported by some Muslim communities as a religious practice, which has generated controversy among Muslims. Evidence cited from the Quran, the authentic sunnah (traditions), ijma’a (consensus of scholars) and qiyas (analogical deductions) in support of FGM/C, justify male circumcision, which is confirmed from the way of life (milat) of both Prophets Ibrahim and Muhammad (PBUT). There is nothing to prove that females were also circumcised during their lifetime. FGM/C is a cultural practice in communities that observe it, and it is wrong to associate Islam with such a harmful practice. Islam has clearly stipulated provisions for the protection of basic human rights and it upholds the sanctity of the human body. Any practice that violates these rights and causes harm to the human body without any justification is prohibited. Religious scholars, because they command respect and influence in their communities, are the best placed people to de-link FGM/C from Islam and to educate their communities about its harms. Scholars have the responsibility to correct ills in the community and must take up the challenge to address this particular ill in their own communities and in the wider Muslim ummah (community). To understand the practice and its effects fully, it is important that religious scholars collaborate with medical doctors to make verdicts based on scientific facts.
In addition to scholars and other persons in authority, the primary responsibility to stop this practice lies with individuals. Each person must make the conscious decision to stop FGM/C in their families. Thus, parents have an obligation to save their daughters and those under their care. Each person will be answerable for his or her deeds and must therefore adhere to their obligations and prepare for this.
GLOSSARY OF CONCEPTS/TERMS
FGM/C: This term is used in this booklet to refer to the practice of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) as defined by WHO and other international organizations. However, experience and evidence from research shows that most community members perceive cutting the tip or a small part of the clitoris as an Islamic religious practice that is Sunnah. They also consider that the term ‘FGM/C’ as referring specifically to Type III (infibulation), which is commonly known as fir’ooni in Somali, meaning pharaonic. To avoid confusion and the mistaken impression that this booklet is de-linking only infibulation from Islam, the term FGM/C refers to all types of genital cutting, regardless of local terminology.
The practice: refers to the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting.Proponents: refers to those who support and advocate for the practice.
Hadith: sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Ahadith: Plural of Hadith.
Fiqhi: study of science of Islamic law (Islamic jurisprudence).
Qiyaas: legal principle of analogical deduction used in Islamic jurisprudence to give a verdict to an issue that has no verdict, but shares a common feature with another that has a verdict; it is a secondary source of Islamic teachings.
I’llat: a common cause or feature used when applying the principle of qiyaas.
Shariah: Islamic system of life.
Sunnah: literally means a way or a path, but technically used to refer to the sayings, deeds or approvals of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In Islamic jurisprudence (fiqhi), they are acts that are either optional or recommended; it is a primary source of Islamic teachings.Ijmaa: the consensus of opinions of scholars after the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on various Islamic matters; It is one of the secondary sources of teachings of Islam.
Subhannahu Wa Taala (SWT): the most exalted.; one of attributes of Allah that is said after His name is mentioned as an acknowledgement of His might.
Radhi-Allahu Anhu (he) /Anha (she) (RA): may Allah (SWT) be pleased with him/her respectively used after the name of companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Islam.
Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH): a supplication for Prophet Muhammad used after his name seeking for him peace and blessings from Allah (SWT).
Alleihi Salaam (AS): peace be with him; used after the mention of the name of a Prophet as a supplication for him and seeking for him peace of Allah (SWT).
Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.