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Preventing female genital mutilation in Finland

Female genital mutilation (female circumcision) is a violent tradition that violates numerous international agreements on human rights as well as Finnish criminal law. The Finnish League for Human Rights has, since 2002, worked for preventing female genital mutilation, as well as for raising consciousness and changing attitudes towards it in Finland.

Permanent change is our goal

The goal of our work against female genital mutilation/circumcision is that girls who live in Finland are not circumcised in Finland or abroad.

The Finnish League for Human Rights is doing long-term work on modifying attitudes towards female genital mutilation. Our actions stem from the principles of human rights.

Our main mode of operation is preventive work at a grassroots level, i.e. holding attitude-modifying discussions with people in Finland who’s countries of origin practice FGM. The discussions are carried out both with individuals and in groups.

Co-operation brings results

Change of attitude requires accurate knowledge of the health problems and human rights aspects of genital mutilation as well as strong role models presented by people who have already started to oppose FGM.

As a result of our grassroots work the attitudes within communities have already changed in Finland. The majority of the Finnish Somalis – both women as well as men – are nowadays against the tradition.

Knowledge also travels across borders. The preventive work we do in Finland also has an effect outside our country. We have experienced that people living in Finland manage to prevent the genital mutilation of girls in their native countries by sharing knowledge about the dangers of the tradition.

Without constant work significant changes in attitudes do not necessarily remain permanent. This is why it is particularly important right now to continue the work of preventing female genital mutilation.

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Training and advocacy

Over the years we have trained students and professionals from many walks of life in order for them to understand what genital mutilation or circumcision is all about and how to bring it up with a client in a tactful way. For example, the police and social authorities have received advice about FGM.

We also promote social advocacy in order to make legislation and the various authorities acknowledge female genital mutilation as a serious form of violence against girls and women.

According to our strategy, it is the responsibility of the state and the municipalities to train the people working within social welfare, health care, day care, in schools and child welfare, on the issues around FGM. This is, however, not the case at the current time. This is why we work at influencing the state to take the responsibility for preventing FGM and for supporting victims of it.

”I now have the courage to talk about FGM!”

Four of the participants of our peer support groups talk about the courage they have gained and what the group discussions mean to them. Meskeram, Sintayhu, Jawaher and Fekade want to openly discuss FGM because they want to make a difference in attitudes towards FGM and to take part in ending FGM altogether. Read more.

What is female genital mutilation?

The female genital mutilation is a very old tradition, rooted especially in certain communities in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. FGM is found in many ethnic and religious communities, and it is justified, for example, with cultural, social, economic, or religious reasons.

There is a range of terms used for mutilation. Internationally, it is frequently referred to as FGM (female genital mutilation), meaning dismemberment of the sexual organs of girls and women. The term FGC (female genital cutting) is also used, as well as a combination of the two, FGM/C.

In the Finnish League for Human Rights we talk of both female genital mutilation and female circumcision.

According to a Unicef estimate, there are about 200 million circumcised girls and women in the world. The World Health Organisation classifies FGM into four main types. The age and mode of circumcision vary in different communities.

FGM has no health benefits. Instead, it leads to multiple complications, the immediate ones being pain, shock, haemorrhage, infections and even death. Long-term complications include chronic infections, urination problems, painful sexual intercourse, dangerous childbirth, infertility and mental suffering.

Female genital mutilation is a form of discrimination against women and girls as well as being blatant violence of human rights, and it should not be approved of under any circumstance.

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