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Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid

Published on Sep 29, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Tolerance=Racism: Newspeak vs TruthSpeak about FGM


It is one thing to rail against human rights violations on foreign soil. It is quite another to countenance such violations in one's own Western backyard.

As we know, Europe has allowed immigrant practices to flourish under the rubric of "tolerance" and "multi-cultural sensitivity." In my view, such "tolerance" is actually racist, not anti-racist as it presumes itself to be; inhumane and cruel, certainly not compassionate.

At the G8 conference about Violence Against Women in Rome, which I attended earlier this month, a stellar panel on female genital mutilation took place.

Dr. Elham Manea, a Yemeni-Swiss, challenged the western culturally relativist view which leads to "tolerance" for what are, after all, crimes against women and against humanity. And, she said, what they really represent is "human rights for westerners only," and not for anyone else. "Women and girls are the first to suffer from such 'tolerance.'"

Dr. Manea then spoke eloquently and movingly about her own mother's traumatic female genital mutilation in Egypt. It happened to her mother when her mother was eight years old. Other women: Neighbors and a female midwife, performed the savage, bloody deed and "the memory has followed her mother all her life."

Dr. Manea stated that it is time "we insist on human rights before religious or cultural rights. And we must not apologize for doing so."

Right on a wave-length with her, today at Frontpage, editor Jamie Glazov, the author of the very important book United in Hate, interviews Ines Laufer, the founder of the Task Force for Effective Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation, a network of Human-Rights-organisations and activists. They are "committed to preventing female genital mutilation (FGM) among migrant girls in the EU. Together with Lucy Mashua, a Kenyan victim of FGM, Laufer now leads a new campaign, sponsoredgirl.com, to protect girls from this barbarity."

At a time in which we are plagued by non-effective ideologues, we also have in our midst, quiet, practical activists, committed to doing good deeds on earth.

For example, at the G8 panel on female genital mutilation, Molly Melching, a native of Senegal for 35 years, and the Director of Tostan, described her own successful efforts at stopping female genital mutilation in Senegal. In the beginning, only thirty women stood up to abandon FGM. Others, mainly women, attacked them. (Oh c'mon, read my book Woman's Inhumanity to Woman. It looks at women's sexism, world-wide, and the source of woman-to-woman cruelty. It will help you understand why women enforce such practices as FGM, arranged marriage, and female honor killing).

In any event, Melching took a practical approach and within 12 years, over 4000 communities in West Africa have joined the original twelve women. In 1997, a group of women from the Senegalese village of Malicounda Bambara stood up before 20 journalists and "declared their decision to end the practice" of FGM. They had participated in Tostan's Community Empowerment Program.

Melching believes that the "power of human rights education" is not to be underestimated. Melching understood that family and clan networks from which marriage matches emerge, must all agree to stop this practice and to marry girls who have not been genitally mutilated. Melching compared FGM to "ending footbinding in China." She closed by saying "When the women stand up, let us be there at the grassroots level."

I congratulated her for her eminently good-hearted and practical approach. She said I was the first feminist to have done so. "Usually, feminists want me to simply condemn the practice, and to be angry at those who do it. I analyzed the situation differently. These mothers love their daughters and do not want them to be ostracized or to remain unmarried which would be dangerous. What needed to happen was cross cultural, cross-border education and it worked."

Ines Laufer and Lucy Mashua have also adopted a practical, and therefore an optimistic approach. Here is how Laufer sounds in the current FP interview.

Laufer: We are The Alliance for Protection of Girls from Female Genital Mutilation. We consider this simply scandalous and unacceptable. It is a crime against the girls and also a system of defrauding the donors… It could lead to true and immediate protection of a few million girls.

FP: Ok, what concretely does the campaign demand?

Laufer: It demands that all organizations who work with the sponsored-child-system, should make sure that all girls in their projects – in the relevant regions – are safely protected from violence like female genital mutilation…It does not cost any money. It is just about the change of the attitude, approach and policy of the organisations. We call for:

[1] The stipulation of the safety and protection from FGM of the sponsored girls in the preconditions for support for the communities – and regular check ups.

[2] A careful selection of the project partners, which means that only those communities that support children's rights will be targets of help. This means an investment of donations in the most economic and effective way.

[3] The complete solution – the two steps to safe protection – you find here.

FP: What exactly can people do to help the campaign? Is it about money and donations?

Laufer: No, Jamie – it is absolutely not about money or donations. It is about something much more important: It's about the power of everyone's voice. By investing exactly two minutes of time and a few clicks, everyone can help – while comfortably sitting in front of the computer. Every reader can help free this world from the nightmare of female genital mutilation. It has never been so easy.

At the www.sponsoredgirl.com website, you find four prepared letters, addressed to PLAN International World Vision, Kindernothilfe and ChildFund, see here.

Every person who signs and sends the letters – and who even steps back from current sponsorship-contracts, enlarges the pressure on the organizations. And this helps us to strengthen our efforts in demanding them to consequently protect the children. Please sign the letters and send them to your friends that they can do it too.

FP: So how has the campaign been going?

Laufer: Well, let me tell you this. In the last ten days, more than 750 letters have been sent to the organizations already. But we would like to achieve at least 5,000 to put the campaign at the next level of public pressure."

Please continue reading this interview to learn more about Lucy Mashua who is co-leading this campaign and who herself is a victim of FGM and of other horrors as well.


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