Iraqi Kurdistan must stop female genital
mutilation "circumcision": Human Rights Watch
June 16, 2010
NEW YORK,— The practice of female
genital cutting, or "circumcision", is widespread in
Iraq's northern Kurdistan region and authorities
must develop a long-term plan to eradicate it, Human
Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
It is estimated that more than 130 million women
worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM),
a centuries-old practice still common in some
countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, western and
southern Asia and parts of the Middle East.
In a report titled "They took me and told me
nothing", the New York-based rights watchdog said
the most common form practiced in Iraqi Kurdistan
was the partial or total removal of the clitoris
and/or prepuce (clitoral hood).
Research indicated the practice is widespread in the
semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, the report said.
Iraqi Kurdistan must stop female genital mutilation
"circumcision": Human Rights Watch
It cited a German-Iraqi study conducted in 2007/08
in which more than 77 percent of female interviewees
aged 14 and over in the Kurdish province of
Sulaimaniyah had undergone the procedure.
"It's time for the regional government to step up to
the plate and take concrete actions to eliminate
this harmful practice because it simply won't go
away on its own," Nadya Khalife, HRW Middle East
women's rights researcher, said.
Often the practice is carried out for cultural or
religious reasons, but opponents say it is a brutal
form of oppression and potentially life-threatening.
Its origins in mainly Sunni Muslim Kurdistan are
unclear, Human Rights Watch said. It said there was
no data to establish how common the practice might
be in the rest of Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed
semi-autonomy since the end of the first Gulf War.
According to the report, some girls and women said
they were told it is rooted in a belief that
anything they touch is haram, or unclean, until they
go through the procedure. "Most women referred to
FGM as an Islamic sunnah,www.ekurd.netan
action taken to strengthen one's religion that is
not obligatory," it said.
But for many girls and women in Iraqi Kurdistan, the
report said, genital cutting is an unavoidable
procedure they undergo sometimes between the ages of
three and 12.
The report cited cases of girls being taken by their
mothers unaware to unlicensed practitioners. "When
they arrived, the midwife, sometimes with the help
of the mother, spread the girl's legs and cut her
clitoris with a razor blade," it said.
"Often, the midwife used the same razor to cut
several girls in succession."
HRW said the Kurdish regional government elected in
July 2009 had done nothing to eradicate the
"The government not only needs to take action to end
this practice, but to work for public affirmation of
a new standard -- not mutilating their girls."
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