Guidelines needed for police, medics in fight against genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation is child abuse and children should be placed under care order if the need arises, says Labour MP.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is child abuse and children at risk of FGM should be placed under care order if need be, Labour MP Chris Fearne said today.

Fearne has piloted a private members' bill which calls for the criminalisation of FGM. The motion enjoys the support of the Opposition.

FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

With FGM, most women in labor would find it problematic to give birth as the closed vagina would tear up.

The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18% of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and this trend is increasing.

As a result of immigration and refugee movements, FGM is now being practiced by ethnic minority populations in the countries they migrate to. Whether or not this is already the case in Malta is unsure, but doctors have witnessed cases in pregnant asylum seekers arriving to Malta, that required extreme care.

Addressing parliament, Fearne argued that the act of female genital mutilation formed part of the African culture, it risked being introduced in Malta through the migrating communities.

Although there appears to be no documented evidence of FGM being practiced in Malta, Fearne referred to a UNHCR report which showed that 90% of the female refugees who came to Malta hailed from countries where genital mutilation is practiced.

"This means that children of these migrants' communities are at a higher risk of undergoing the procedure. It is therefore important that this bill becomes law as soon as possible," Fearne said.

He said that solid guidelines and policies were needed to safeguard those at risk of the act. But not only.

"We need to have proper guidelines for NGOs and government agencies who work with the migrant communities; we need guidelines for the healthcare professionals and guidelines for the Police Force on how to manage such a delicate situation," he said.

Fearne however also recognised the importance of educating not only the public about the procedure, but also the communities which carry out the practice. He conceded that at times, despite being against the practice, women would be forced to carry the procedure on their daughters due to rising pressure from the elders... or simply because they had been brought up that way and it therefore required a culture change.

He also acknowledged that females who underwent genital mutilation would require psychological support. Sometimes after giving labor, a mother would ask the doctor to be sewed up again.

"We are criminalizing the act and therefore police have to be guided on how to deal with such cases. Doctors also have to be educated on how to tackle such cases, especially when the mother who has just given birth ask to be sewed up again," the MP said.

Anyone carrying FGM must be imprisoned for life because that is what he or she does to the girl which is subjected to this inhumane procedure. She is scarred for life.
Kudos to the Hon. Chris Fearne for this initiative. FGM, which often includes infibulation, is an atrocious practice common in certain areas of Africa, especially those in the Horn, but also in other countries in that continent including Egypt. The movie "Desert Flower" tells the story of a super-model of Somali origin who was circumcised when aged 3. The public should be educated in clear terms about the practice, not least so that persons who enter into relationships with others of a different culture would do so with their eyes open.