Female Genital Mutilation in Germany – an overview

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Up to 50.000 minor girls are at risk - up to 80% become victims of FGM: There's no appropriate protection so far...

In February 2007, the “Prevention Programme for broad protection from FGM” has been presented to several sections of the German parliament, as well as to the ministry of justice, the ministry of health and the ministry of family affairs.

Ten years before, in 1997, the German government has put the problem of Female Genital Mutilation for the first time at its agenda: After a public hearing, organised by the Green party, all members of the Bundestag condemned Female Genital Mutilation as grievous violation of women’s and girl’s rights and called for common action to stop the practice.

Since then, lots of statements from German politicians have been repeating and confirming this view.

In February 2007, the “Prevention Programme for broad protection from FGM” has been presented to several sections of the German parliament, as well as to the ministry of justice, the ministry of health and the ministry of family affairs.

Ten years before, in 1997, the German government has put the problem of Female Genital Mutilation for the first time at its agenda: After a public hearing, organised by the Green party, all members of the Bundestag condemned Female Genital Mutilation as grievous violation of women’s and girl’s rights and called for common action to stop the practice.

Since then, lots of statements from German politicians have been repeating and confirming this view.

Despite the official opinion, that Female Genital Mutilation can not be accepted or justified with cultural, traditional or religious reasons, we face a large discrepancy between “words and actions”.

What is the situation in Germany regarding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?

Compared with the current statistics, the TaskForce FGM had to adjust the number of minor girls who live in Germany and who are at risk to be submitted to FGM:

Up to 50.000 girls under the age of 18 must be considered at risk from being mutilated, either in Germany or in their countries of origin. This number is about 10 times higher than all ones published before, because it now includes girls from Iraq, Yemen, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as girls who are born in bi-national partnerships.

We must fear that up to 80% of the girls at risk are really being mutilated: either in Germany or they are being brought to other European countries or to Africa for that purpose.

Yet, until now, no one has been prosecuted in Germany because of the mutilation of his/her daughters.

Therefore, one pressing question we had to answer was: Why? Why have no parents in Germany been prosecuted for mutilating their children?

We had to find out that our general Criminal law offers sufficient potential for proper prosecution. Therefore, the problem can not be found within the Criminal law!

This perception can be fortified by the fact, that in all European countries which have implemented special Anti-FGM-acts, almost no prosecutions have been realised. One of the most embarrassing examples is Great Britain: Great Britain has been the second country in Europe that has outlawed FGM with a specific prohibition, in 1985. During the last 25 years, this law has never been applied – although approximately 3.000 little girls are forcibly mutilated there every year!

But how can the large discrepancy between the high number of mutilated girls and the non-prosecution of the offenders be explained?

In Germany, we recently found a clear answer to that urgent question, because of a concrete FGM-case in Hamburg:

We simply do not have appropriate legal frame conditions that could allow to prosecute the offenders!

The reason for that Dilemma is caused in the very specific manifestation of FGM as systematic violence against children: The victims of FGM normally are too young to denounce the offenders, who in general are part of their own family, often the own parents. So, the victims themselves can not be made responsible to initiate the prosecution.

On the other hand, the only professionals who can detect the mutilation of little girl’s genitalia are pediatrists.

Referring to the patient/physician confidentiality which is regulated by law, they are not allowed to report the mutilation of the girls to the police or State attorney.

At that point, the German law creates quite safe protection for people who let their daughter’s genitalia cut off – and hinders any appropriate prosecution.

This situation is similar in almost all European countries. It conclusively explains the evanescent small number of prosecutions.

This problem can be solved by adopting two simple measures:

  1. compulsory check-ups that include the examination of the girl’s genital intactness and
  2. the implementation of the obligation to report in case of detected mutilations

From the moment of the implementation of these two measures, no girl could be mutilated illegally. The offenders would be prosecuted – and for the first time – they honestly had to decide weather they continue to mutilate their children, but to bear the consequences – or to let their children grow up with an intact body and not to come into conflict with the law.

And what about true prevention of FGM?

During the last ten years, the German government did not undertake any noteworthy action to ensure the protection of girls who are at risk to be mutilated in front of our doors, despite lots of “lip services”.

Both politicians and ministries, are oblivious to the whole extent of FGM on girls who live in Germany. Until now, they refuse to admit that the problem includes a collective endangerment that can not be solved by individual decisions.

While thousands of little girls are left to their mutilation without extended cover, very view could be protected by clear court-decisions. The last decision was made by the Family court in Bonn,  just two weeks ago.

Recognizing the high risk that occurs for the girls when they are brought to the African countries of their parent’s origin, the court prohibits to travel to these countries with the minor girls.

The court in Bonn adopted the reasons for the need of this measure, that have been given already in 2004 by the Highest Supreme Court in Germany (see Prevention Programme).

Regarding this stringent policy that highlights and focuses the girl’s right to bodily integrity, the German prevailing case law can be considered as the most progressive and consistent in Europe.

Despite of that, the majority of the girls at risk can not count on this help.

It is now an urgent duty of the German government to make the girls protection sure by adopting general strategies and measures that will guarantee measurable prevention from Female Genital Mutilation.

We therefore continue our work for the implementation of the „prevention programme

Despite the official opinion, that Female Genital Mutilation can not be accepted or justified with cultural, traditional or religious reasons, we face a large discrepancy between “words and actions”.

What is the situation in Germany regarding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?

Compared with the current statistics, the TaskForce FGM had to adjust the number of minor girls who live in Germany and who are at risk to be submitted to FGM:

Up to 50.000 girls under the age of 18 must be considered at risk from being mutilated, either in Germany or in their countries of origin. This number is about 10 times higher than all ones published before, because it now includes girls from Iraq, Yemen, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as girls who are born in bi-national partnerships.

We must fear that up to 80% of the girls at risk are really being mutilated: either in Germany or they are being brought to other European countries or to Africa for that purpose.

Yet, until now, no one has been prosecuted in Germany because of the mutilation of his/her daughters.

Therefore, one pressing question we had to answer was: Why? Why have no parents in Germany been prosecuted for mutilating their children?

We had to find out that our general Criminal law offers sufficient potential for proper prosecution. Therefore, the problem can not be found within the Criminal law!

This perception can be fortified by the fact, that in all European countries which have implemented special Anti-FGM-acts, almost no prosecutions have been realised. One of the most embarrassing examples is Great Britain: Great Britain has been the second country in Europe that has outlawed FGM with a specific prohibition, in 1985. During the last 25 years, this law has never been applied – although approximately 3.000 little girls are forcibly mutilated there every year!

But how can the large discrepancy between the high number of mutilated girls and the non-prosecution of the offenders be explained?

In Germany, we recently found a clear answer to that urgent question, because of a concrete FGM-case in Hamburg:

We simply do not have appropriate legal frame conditions that could allow to prosecute the offenders!

The reason for that Dilemma is caused in the very specific manifestation of FGM as systematic violence against children: The victims of FGM normally are too young to denounce the offenders, who in general are part of their own family, often the own parents. So, the victims themselves can not be made responsible to initiate the prosecution.

On the other hand, the only professionals who can detect the mutilation of little girl’s genitalia are pediatrists.

Referring to the patient/physician confidentiality which is regulated by law, they are not allowed to report the mutilation of the girls to the police or State attorney.

At that point, the German law creates quite safe protection for people who let their daughter’s genitalia cut off – and hinders any appropriate prosecution.

This situation is similar in almost all European countries. It conclusively explains the evanescent small number of prosecutions.

This problem can be solved by adopting two simple measures:

  1. compulsory check-ups that include the examination of the girl’s genital intactness and
  2. the implementation of the obligation to report in case of detected mutilations

From the moment of the implementation of these two measures, no girl could be mutilated illegally. The offenders would be prosecuted – and for the first time – they honestly had to decide weather they continue to mutilate their children, but to bear the consequences – or to let their children grow up with an intact body and not to come into conflict with the law.

And what about true prevention of FGM?

During the last ten years, the German government did not undertake any noteworthy action to ensure the protection of girls who are at risk to be mutilated in front of our doors, despite lots of “lip services”.

Both politicians and ministries, are oblivious to the whole extent of FGM on girls who live in Germany. Until now, they refuse to admit that the problem includes a collective endangerment that can not be solved by individual decisions.

While thousands of little girls are left to their mutilation without extended cover, very view could be protected by clear court-decisions. The last decision was made by the Family court in Bonn,  just two weeks ago.

Recognizing the high risk that occurs for the girls when they are brought to the African countries of their parent’s origin, the court prohibits to travel to these countries with the minor girls.

The court in Bonn adopted the reasons for the need of this measure, that have been given already in 2004 by the Highest Supreme Court in Germany (see Prevention Programme).

Regarding this stringent policy that highlights and focuses the girl’s right to bodily integrity, the German prevailing case law can be considered as the most progressive and consistent in Europe.

Despite of that, the majority of the girls at risk can not count on this help.

It is now an urgent duty of the German government to make the girls protection sure by adopting general strategies and measures that will guarantee measurable prevention from Female Genital Mutilation.

We therefore continue our work for the implementation of the „preventon programme

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