Canada: Muslim girls being taken abroad for female genital mutilation


“FGM is practised in 29 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, India and other parts of Asia.”

We used to hear that it was only practiced in East Africa. But as it gradually came to light that it was common in many Muslim countries elsewhere, even in some areas of Iran, this had to be revised.

“It is seen by some as a rite of passage into womanhood or a condition of marriage. Though it is not considered an Islamic practice — it predates the religion — for some, it is a religious ritual or requirement and there is tremendous societal pressure placed on families to have it done.”

Not considered an Islamic practice, eh?

“Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) (by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the bazr ‘clitoris’ [this is called khufaadh ‘female circumcision’]).” — ‘Umdat al-Salik e4.3, translated by Mark Durie, The Third Choice, p. 64

Why is it obligatory? Because Muhammad is held to have said so: “Abu al- Malih ibn Usama’s father relates that the Prophet said: ‘Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women.’” — Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75

“Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: ‘Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.’” — Abu Dawud 41:5251

“Do not cut severely,” but not “Do not cut.”

That’s why it is so common around the world, and why it is certain to become increasingly common in the United States as well.

“Canadian girls are being taken abroad to undergo female genital mutilation, documents reveal,” by Jayme Poisson, Toronto Star, July 14, 2017:

Thousands of Canadian girls are at risk of female genital mutilation, government officials believe. And some are being taken overseas to have the dangerous procedure done — an illegal act known as “vacation cutting.”

Officials from the federal government’s Global Affairs Ministry warn that, as with forced marriage, the “one chance rule” applies to these cases, meaning a professional might get only one opportunity to speak to a potential victim and save her, according to documents obtained by the Star.

And yet Canada has done little to understand the scope of the problem and is lagging far behind other developed countries in efforts to prevent it, experts say.

“Based on the limited information available, it is possible that a few thousand Canadian girls are at risk, some of whom will be taken overseas for the procedure,” wrote Elaine Cukeric of the federal government’s Vulnerable Children’s Unit in a June 2015 email to a Canadian consular official in Nairobi, Kenya. At the time, the unit — tasked with dealing with issues related to Canadian children abroad — was reaching out to consulates in Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan where cutting is prevalent and asking for their experience dealing with the practice so that “we might develop an effective strategy.”

In a statement to the Star, a Global Affairs spokesperson said the federal government “recognizes that female genital mutilation/cutting is one of the most severe violations of the human rights of women and girls” and when made aware of a case they provide “appropriate consular services.” The spokesperson could not say how many cases her ministry has dealt with in recent years because they “do not have a specific category to track cases of (FGM)” and, further, are “not aware of any updated statistics on the issue of Canadian girls at risk.”

Female genital mutilation (FGM) — also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision — is a procedure that intentionally alters or causes injury to external female organs. It can be inflicted on girls as young as 1 and varies in severity from partial removal of the clitoris, to excising the clitoris and labia and stitching up the walls of the vulva to leave only a tiny opening — known as infibulation.

FGM has no health benefits for girls and women. It can cause severe bleeding, problems with urination and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths, according to the World Health Organization. It can also deny women sexual pleasure. FGM affects more than 200 million women worldwide, according to UNICEF. It is a crime in Canada, as is sending a child elsewhere to have the procedure done.

What is unknown — beyond anecdotal evidence — is whether FGM is happening within Canadian borders. In the U.S., a doctor in Michigan was recently charged with carrying out the practice on up to 100 young girls, according to federal prosecutors, who say that no Canadian victims have been identified yet. There have also been cases in the U.K., France and Australia.

Cukeric’s email correspondence, and dozens of additional emails sent by government employees over the past three years and released to the Star through an access to information request, reference multiple cases the government is aware of in which Canadian girls have undergone or are alleged to have undergone cutting abroad.

Government officials reference summaries of specific cases they are aware of, which are housed in internal servers. Many of the cases arose because “a relative (aunt/cousin) was the complainant,” said a Nairobi official. A different consular official in Nairobi wrote that their office had seen “several cases, not all of them successful.” Other officials mention known cases in Somalia and Pakistan — where it is “understood they have a lot of experience dealing with” FGM cases.

In one email chain from September 2015, officials reference a case in which a “little girl” was “alleged to be removed from Canada for the purposes of female circumcision.” (The child’s location in Canada and the country she was allegedly taken to have both been redacted to protect her privacy.)

Local police and children’s services “were unable to prevent the girl from leaving,” said one email.

FGM is practised in 29 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, India and other parts of Asia. It is seen by some as a rite of passage into womanhood or a condition of marriage. Though it is not considered an Islamic practice — it predates the religion — for some, it is a religious ritual or requirement and there is tremendous societal pressure placed on families to have it done….

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