For the last three years, Germany has been experiencing an influx of refugees – more than any other European country. While many have welcomed the refugees into their country with open arms, many activists and doctors are beginning to warn that some inhumane practices, including female genital mutilation, might also make their way across the German border.
Terre Des Femmes is a non-profit organization in Germany who, “supports girls and women by raising public awareness, international networking, campaigning, individual personal assistance, and promoting self-help projects abroad.” The organization announced that about 13,000 young girls in Germany are at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation. Most of the women and girls who are at risk or have survived female genital mutilation originate from Eritrea, Somalia, Egypt, Ethiopia, or Iraq.
Charlotte Weil, an FGM expert with Terre des Femmes, announced, “Due to the arrival of migrants from countries such as Eritrea, Somalia and Iraq, we have recorded a huge increase in the number of affected women and threatened girls.” There are more than 13,000 girls in Germany at risk of being forced into FGM, a 4,000 increase over the previous year.
Weil added, “We don’t know of any cases where a girl was mutilated in Germany. It either takes place on a holiday back in their homeland, or during a visit to a practitioner in a city such as Paris or Amsterdam.”
Recently, a study published by the Family Affairs Ministry said that 48,000 women and girls living in Germany were found to have been survivors of female genital mutilation. While the German government has pledged to bring about harsher punishments for the practice and vowed to raise more awareness about the dangers of FGM, between 1,600 and 5,700 girls living in Germany will be forced to undergo this harmful operation.
Ralf Kleindiek, State Secretary in the Family Affairs Ministry, said, “FGM is a serious breach of a person’s human rights. It causes unbelievable physical pain as well as psychological damage.”
Female genital mutilation has been illegal when carried out abroad since 2015 and, more recently, German law enforcement have gained more freedom to do what they can to stop female genital mutilation from occurring. Authorities are now able to confiscate the passports of a young girl’s parents if they suspect that that family is leaving the country in order to attend a mutilation ceremony. Law enforcement is also asking teachers in the country to report any suspicious trips families take abroad.
However, some fear tougher laws will not do enough to put an end to female genital mutilation altogether. Charlotte Weil said, “The key to ending [female genital mutilation] is education. We need to interact with the communities involved in such practices, to explain the background and the consequences. Most of the time, those involved don’t know about the psychological and physical repercussions.”
Hopefully, tougher laws and more awareness will help us take another step towards putting an end to female genital mutilation.
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