MORE than 3,650 girls in Spain are reportedly at risk of female genital mutilation.
According to a study promoted and coordinated by the Government Delegation against Gender Violence and carried out by the Wassu-UAB Foundation in Spain there are 15,562 girls aged under 14 who are from countries where female genital mutilation is practiced.
The Government Delegate Against Gender Violence, Victoria Rosell, who presented the report, explained that this type of violence against women is not particularly well-known in Spain, but that this is “no reason to give up on putting in place systems to end the pain of millions of girls who go through this atrocious experience that marks their lives”.
By provinces, Barcelona is estimated to have the highest number of girls at risk, with 746.
The procedure is not generally carried out in Spain, as it is illegal here, and carries prison sentences of up to 12 years and loss of custody of the minor.
What usually happens is that girls born in Spain are taken on a long vacation to their parents’ country of origin and subjected to this practice by their grandmothers.
The director of the Wassu-UAB Foundation, Adriana Kaplan, pointed out the importance of health, social and education workers keeping a look out for anything which may suggest that girls in their care may be at risk.
There are several types of female genital mutilation, but all involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, a practice carried out in some African and Asian countries.
The Spanish authorities contact families of girls whom they consider may be at risk and explain the dangers it involves. The parents are also informed that in Spain, this practice is considered a crime punishable by law.
Many of the families living in Spain apparently do not want to carry out the mutilation, but upon returning to their countries of origin feel pressured into accepting it by their communities, many of which believe that it is good for a woman’s health and cleanliness.
However, it is mainly used to prevent young girls from having sexual urges in order to maintain their virginity until marriage, something which assures they will be accepted by their future husbands.
Many women allow the procedure as they believe it will please their partners and guarantee a successful marriage.
The origin of female genital mutilation is unknown and although it is carried out in many Muslim countries, it is not related to Islam or any other known religion.
UNICEF estimates that despite being internationally recognized as a human rights violation, FGM has been performed on at least 200 million girls and women in 31 countries across three continents, more than half of them in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia. It is highly linked to countries with severe gender inequality.
Worldwide, more than four million girls, most under the age of 15, are at risk of undergoing the procedure each year.
As well as problems during intercourse and birthing, it can also cause infertility, chronic infections, contagion of AIDS and hepatitis and septicaemia which can cause death.
One association fighting to reduce FGM as well as child marriage is Mundo Cooperante. They sell bracelets made by Masai women to raise funds.
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