19 March 2013

After VDay and CSW, how can we end violence against women?

Guest blog by Mahdieh Madannezhad, student at the Shahid Beheshti University, Iran.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined by World Health Organisation (WHO) as all procedures that intentionally alter and ncause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is performed on young females with the purpose of protecting their virginity until marriage. FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights of girls and women. Although since 1979 it is recognised as a problem by WHO, about 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.  In particular, in African countries an estimated 92 million girls aged 10 and over have undergone FGM.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human rights, Articles 3 and 5 state respectively that “Every one has a right to life, liberty and security of [a] person… No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” By this definition, FGM is a gross violation of human rights of girls and women as the practice denies women and girls their rights to:

  • Physical and mental integrity
  • Freedom from violence
  • The highest attainable standard of health
  • Freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex
  • Freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments
  • Life (when the procedure results in death).

We can conclude from these shocking statistics and the fact that 3 million will be cut – that is a girl every 10 seconds[1] that this is a global problem and urgently requires global attention. How can different actors (individuals to transnational) help women suffering from the consequences of FGM and its dangers? Can we accomplish our task under a system in which states do not let each other intervene in their internal issues? Does interference change anything?

In my opinion, the best choice in this case is by working together. The most important problem in solving these kinds of problems is a lack of integration. Problems can be solved when people all over the world give a collective consensus on what their goals and values are. They can effectively use different tactics to achieve their aims. People can establish connections with each other via NGOs and other transnational organisations to eliminate the problem and its side effects. When people worldwide consider the same things as problems they have a similar purpose: omitting the problem.

We should recognise our obstacles in regions where FGM is still practised, especially when leaders support of what is a violation of human rights, yet connected with most of the people’s beliefs and faiths. Probably, transnational organisations’ actions can be seen as an intervention in internal affairs, something against country sovereign. Hence, we should prove the fact that global peace is under danger. Although FGM is performed within a state, it is a universal concern. In an era of globalisation, negative things as fast as positive ones. These girls migrate abroad, bringing the side effects – especially psychological – of FGM with them.

If peace is defined as any violence or threat of violence against a person or his/her property, we can see tribes, ethnic groups etc in which FGM is performed as a threat to global peace.  Since FGM is derived from people’s minds, for-profit and non-profit organisations should deal with their opinions and perspectives via education. Types of education include school courses, media, press and travel.

FGM is also linked with economic issues. Not only should social and political organisations do their best to eliminate violence against women but also funds ought to be invested by multinational corporations on the issue as a global concern.

In summary, I believe that states and other international stakeholders should consider the importance of striving to eliminate universal violence against women as significant as the containment of weapons. It probably is deemed unusual but the point is we can fight against a country’s material capacities which can be used in favour of personal benefits and against universal peace. They are tangible and make individuals and states terrified. But what about intangible and invisible factors such as racism and violence against females? In other words, what should we do with some things which do not look as a threat to people and their property? The answer is simple. It is faith derived from a person’s beliefs that are traced back to what the person is taught in different phases of his or her life within a given community that perpetuates such traditions.

People with the purpose of eliminating FGM should consider dealing foremost with the long standing cultural traditions ingrained within a society. Such a task may prove more complex than how international or regional alliances are having to deal with a country’s security issues, since in the process of eradicating FGM we are having to confront the country’s elites and ordinary people. It is an issue far and beyond the scope of politics and power-struggle. It is an issue of old habits dying hard.  Finally, through organisations such as 28 Too Many, we can work together to change harmful cultural practices such as FGM.

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