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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 16:01 GMT
MSPs told of circumcision fears
Woman with scissors
Female circumcision is a health and human rights issue, MSPs were told
MSPs have heard claims that girls from Scotland are being sent abroad to undergo female circumcision.

Holyrood's Equal Opportunities Committee is considering a bill to make genital mutilation illegal.

The legislative move was initially viewed as an attempt to bring Scots Law into line with England and Wales, where it is already outlawed.

However, it has been discovered that the practice could be taking place in Scotland within the Somali community.

While collecting evidence for the bill, Coatbridge & Chryston MSP Elaine Smith met with a group of Somali women in Glasgow, who said they feared girls were being sent abroad to have the procedure carried out.

The Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Bill, if passed, would make it an offence to send a girl abroad for FGM.

Under pressure

The Somali Women Action Group, which is based in Glasgow, welcomed the legislation for making people "think twice" before sending young girls abroad for the procedure.

They said Somali mothers wanted to stop the practice but were under enormous social pressure to have it carried out on their daughters.

MSPs were told the procedure is "more than circumcision", often involving the cutting away of parts of external genitalia.

Some people might think it is an imposition on their culture. There needs to be education
Fariha Thomas, Muslim Women's Resource Centre
Fariha Thomas of the Muslim Women's Resource Centre said the procedure was not a religious practice but a cultural one.

She said: "New legislation sends out a message but on its own it is not going to get very far. Indeed, some people might think it is an imposition on their culture. There needs to be education."

Efua Dorkenoo of the Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (Forward), said the issue was as much about human rights as the health consequences of female circumcision.

She said: "Female genital mutilation is mainly about suppressing the sexuality of the girl child, which in itself is a violation of human rights of the girl child."

Genital mutilation is practised in many countries in Africa and the Middle East, but is particularly strong in Somalia, where surveys suggest it is carried out on nearly all young girls.


SEE ALSO:
'I had female circumcision'
13 May 04 |  Health


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