‘Ambassadors’ to fight female genital mutilation

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Deputy Health Minister Jet Bussemaker appointed ‘ambassadors’ against female genital mutilation today at an international conference on the practice in The Hague.

The ambassadors, drawn from African communities in the Netherlands, will pass on information on the dangers of female genital mutilation to parents who originally come from countries where the custom is practiced, such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan.

In a TV interview on Tuesday, Ms Bussemaker stressed that apart from causing terrible pain, female genital mutilation, also referred to as female circumcision or genital cutting, deprives women of their sexuality and carries grave lifelong health risks.

African success
She said the government plans to call in help from African countries such as Senegal to help eradicate female genital mutilation in the Netherlands, in what she describes as “reverse development cooperation”. According to the deputy minister, while some African countries had taken great strides in stamping out the practice, immigrants in the Netherlands sometimes remained more conservative in retaining the custom than people in their homeland.

At the conference in The Hague, headed ‘Uniting Europe and Africa to fight Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting,’ one of the key speakers was Berhane-Ras Work of the Inter-African Committee, who gave a presentation on African projects that have been successful in combating the custom.


Ms Bussemaker also used the conference as a platform to launch a scheme after a French model whereby parents from high-risk countries are invited to sign a contract in which they undertake not to subject their daughters to genital mutilation. The scheme is aimed at helping parents resist pressure from relatives by showing them the signed contract. It states that female genital mutilation is illegal in the Netherlands, and the parents risk prosecution if they allow it to be performed on their daughters.