Frontpage Interview's guest is Ines Laufer, founder of the Task Force for Effective Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation, a network of Human-Rights-organisations and activists that is committed to measurable, broad prevention of genital mutilation among migrant girls in the EU. With the Task Force's prevention-programme, for the first time true protection of minor girls from this violence comes into reach.
FP: Ines Laufer, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Laufer: Thank you - for broaching the issue of Female Genital Mutilation which might still be one of the most neglected and underestimated, systematic crimes and violations of children's rights today.
FP: Tell us about your background and how you came to be concerned about this crime against women.
Laufer: Born and grown up in Eastern Germany at the time of the Iron Curtain, information about what was going "on the other side" of the world was not really available. Knowledge about the problems in the socialist African partner countries like Ethiopia was limited to war, aridity and hunger. No word about the nation-wide mutilation of female girl-children.
After the fall of the Wall, I moved to France for my education in Tourism-business. Back to Germany a few years later, I heard about Female Genital Mutilation for the first time: It was an article in the popular STERN-magazine. September 1994. Never before had I been so bewildered and enraged than by learning about this bestiality. No, I didn't want to go back to my day-to-day business and push this disturbing information aside: I wanted to act, to commit myself to the fight for an end of this violent oppression of female sexuality. Today, this fire still burns inside of me and keeps me working imperturbably.
FP: How about the liberals and leftists, even feminists, who oppose saving girls from this crime in the name of political correctness?
Laufer: From the late 70s until today, Western feminists have been the favourite representatives of the cultural relativists, anthropologists and ethnologists when it came to a discussion about FGM. Yet, it was the feminist movement that started to speak out against the mutilation of girls in the context of gender-apartheid - and called for an immediate end of this violence.
To the relativists - who kept their eyes closed to the fact that the anti-FGM movement started in Africa, not in the Western world - this was an infamous affront to what they see as a significant part of African culture and identity. They called the Western opponents of FGM cultural imperialists and racists - and simply ignored the voices of the growing number of men and women who opposed this butchery in their own African, Arabian or Asian countries.
The influence of so-called scientists like Richard Shweder who call for legal, medicalized perpetration of genital mutilations, even infibulations on young girls in the United States in the name of cultural identity and multicultural tolerance, should not be underestimated. The seed of such misanthropic opinions is growing: in the German contribution to FGM at Wikipedia, the authors openly conduct propaganda for Shweder & Co. behind the smoke-screen of scientific neutrality.
In Germany today, one looks availingly for feminists or activists who do clearly answer back to the mutilation-defenders. Even the only existing popular feminist magazine, “EMMA” which was the first print medium that published a courageous, awaking article about Female Genital Mutilation in 1977, has become too opportune to seriously seize on new and controversial facts, data and ideas about our responsibility and how to tackle the problem of FGM in front of our doors. One prefers to ruminate mushy phrases like: FGM has been imported to Europe as “identity-creating custom.” One sacrifices any critical reflection to political correctness and even verbally trivializes the mutilation as “circumcision”.
Sure, this might be very convenient – but it doesn’t help at all to find solutions which are so urgently needed in the interest of the little girls who are at bad risk to be submitted to FGM.
FP: Your perspective of Ayan Hirsi Ali's "FGM prevention programme," which she introduced to the Dutch Parliament in 2004?
This programme is simple and effective because it takes into consideration the specifics of Female Genital Mutilation as systematic violence against children that is perpetrated within the family.
In the main, it consists of three steps:
 Exact definition of the risk-group (all migrant-girls whose parents come from FGM-practising countries or ethnic groups).
 Compulsory medical check up at regular intervals to verify the girl’s genital intactness.
 If a girl’s genitalia is found to be mutilated, the medical professionals need to be obliged to report to the police or state attorney for a criminal proceeding against the offenders – who, by the way, are always the parents or other family members.
By implementing this control-system, for the first time it would become impossible for families who maltreat their girl-children by letting their genitalia cut off – to escape from prosecution. Until today, they profit by the fact that the scars and wounds of FGM are invisible to others: They are hidden between the girl’s legs.
From the moment the offenders would know that – unavoidably – this crime would come to light in a compulsory examination and lead to – unavoidable - prosecution, they would think twice before they would bring their daughters to the mutilator.
By enforcing this measure, the mutilation of little girls in European countries could be stopped within a very short timeframe and the extent of protection could exactly be measured.
But there would still be another substantial problem: Countless migrant girls are sent to the countries of their parent’s origin, mutilated, forcibly married and left there. The above mentioned programme could not manage to stop this traffic of young girls. In 2007, the dedicated French lawyer Linda Weil-Curiel (CAMS France), told me the following:
“The problem we face now is that parents leave their daughters intact until they are12 or13 for fear of medical examination if the girl is sick but they send them then on holiday abroad, the family there gets hold of their passport and sends them to the village where they are excised then forced into marriage, which is actually a rape. When the girl finally returns to France with ‘husband’ in tow, he will claim French nationality after the civil marriage in France.”
There is a solution for this problem. Again simple and effective: To the above mentioned measures, there has to be added another one:
 General protection for minor girls of the risk group from being brought to the risk-countries by restricting the parent’s rights to determine the girl’s travel-destinations and domicile place.
The legal justification as well as the ethical duty to the complete protection programme can be found in the basic law/constitution of most European countries, in ECHR, in the Convention for the Rights of Children of the UN, and in the Declaration of Human Rights.
FP: How did you end up creating the Task Force for Effective Prevention of FGM? What is it exactly and what have you accomplished?
Laufer: After having been the leader/co-ordinator of the FGM-working group within the German organisation TERRE DES FEMMES until 1998, I needed a break and spent a few years overseas. In 2006, when I learned about Hirsi Ali’s proposals on how to protect little migrant-girls in that very measurable way, I realized that this was something worth to put energy into. Because never before, true prevention of the dreadful mutilation of girls, has come into such a clear sight. On the other hand, I had to admit that TERRE DES FEMMES was no willing nor able to go for that goal. As a consequence, I turned my back on them and decided to found a network that would unite all those progressive forces who finally, definitely and tough-minded are committed to stamp out Female Genital Mutilation in the EU.
Today, the “TaskForce for effective prevention of FGM” unites children-rights-organisations like the “Lobby for HumanRights”, organisations who support anti-FGM initiatives in Africa and Iraq, like Akifra e.V, TABU e.V. and WADI e.V.
The TaskForce does not only co-operate closely with the largest African network on FGM, the Inter-African-Committee (IAC), but also with other European organisations, parliamentarians and members of the European parliament.
FP: So what is the situation in Germany? In Europe? In the Islamic and African world?
Laufer: The situation in Germany and Europe can be summed up in one sentence: It’s a catastrophic disaster.
Just a few examples:
Wrong data: The number of FGM-victims and minor girls at risk and the prevalence of FGM in the EU are much higher than assumed.
Studies, research by journalists and organisations as well as information given by insiders of the concerned African and Muslim communities describe the following scenario: At least 40% of the migrant girls whose parents come from mutilating ethnic countries and groups are submitted to FGM. Here in Europe. They are sent to the countries of origin for that purpose, especially during holidays, or get their genitalia cut off at their homes by imported mutilators.
Within the high-risk groups, for instance Muslim immigrants from Somalia, it is still worse: The average of mutilated girls here in Europe ranges as high as 70 to 80%. Hege Storhaug from the Norwegian organisation “Human Rights Services,” who managed to gain deeper insight to what is going on in the Somali communities in Norway, brings it to the point by stating that we have to deal with “a new dimension of organized crime”.
Nevertheless, the European community, governments, ministries, politicians and most “activists” still deny this dimension of mutilations in front of our door. They deny, that due to this enormous prevalence among the FGM-practising groups, we do face a “collective violence” (not some individual cases) that requires “collective measures.”
FP: The continuously published estimated numbers of how many women and girls living in the EU have been victims of FGM or are at risk, are widely wrong. Why?
Laufer: They are wrong because:
 They disregard the girls who are born in the EU, also from bi-national partnerships who we know are at risk too – at least when they are brought to FGM-countries of the father’s or mother’s origin.
 They also defraud the girls from non-African countries like Yemen, Iraq, Indonesia and Malaysia – but who face a risk up to 90% to become victim of this violence. Most activists, organisations and scientists who spread the myth of FGM being an “African tradition/ rite of initiation” do still refuse to admit that the mutilations are far away from being an “African culture” - although the disastrous high number of victims in Arabian and Asian countries is described and documented in manifold cases.
 The statistic immigrant-data is mostly treated incorrectly: ALL organisations imply the mutilation-rate of the countries of origins. That, needlessly adulterates the results – because the ethnical mixture in Europe does not 1:1 correspond to the one in the single African countries. So, the figures in the statistics need to be considered at 100%.
 And the current statistics completely fail to account those families who come from an FGM-practising country/ethnic group but adopted the citizenship in a European country.
As result of these facts, we have to correct logical/statistic mistakes and to adjust the number of girls who live in Germany but are at risk to be mistreated by their parents through FGM to 30.000 to 50.000. This was in 2007. The German politicians, ministries, journalists (except one) and all organisations who work in the Network “INTEGRA”, still publish a wrong number of 4.000 girls at risk – which might sound less serious and makes it easy to maintain the sight, that FGM is a problem of a very limited dimension.
So – the numbers of potential FGM-victims in UK, published by FORWARD, are wrong in the same way: Multiplied by ten, they would get closer to the real dimension.
FP: So why is there no prosecution? In Europe, mutilators and offenders who let their daughter’s genitalia cut-off, are very safe and do not seriously need to fear prosecution. How come?
Laufer: Since 1982, there have been some European countries adopting specific prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation. In all other European countries, FGM is pursuable following the regular criminal law.
Except in France, where since the 1990th several court proceedings and sentences have been realised, the number of prosecutions in other European countries can be counted on one hand.
For instance, in Sweden, the first case-file was opened in 2006, 24 years after launching the law. (It must be stated, the average mutilation-rate among Somali migrants in Sweden might range as high as 80%. At a press-conference with Waris Dirie and the Swedish minister of health few years ago, a member of the Somali community in Sweden stated that in his community, there would not be a single girl that has not been submitted to FGM) Back to the concrete case: A 13-years-old girl with Swedish citizenship had been taken to Somalia by her Somali father, genitally mutilated and sold into slavery to another man. After years in agony, she could manage to escape via Ethiopia. Back to Sweden, she pressed charges against her father, who was then jailed.
Interesting and significant in this case were the self-pleasing reactions of the Swedish organisations, politicians and ministries: Publicly, they celebrated themselves for successfully having applied the FGM-prohibition-act – instead of admitting that they had miserably failed: Because of their failure to protect this girl from being brought to a country where 98% of the female population is submitted to genital mutilation and infibulation – which makes the act very foreseeable – they are complicit to that crime which they could and should have prevented.
In the media, there was not a single word of empathy for the poor victim who certainly will never overcome the deep trauma caused by this outrage.
Instead, Berit Andnor, Swedish minister for family-affairs, was very busy to excuse the crime and it’s offenders by stating that “parents do not perform FGM on their daughters because of cruelness – but because they want to guarantee a better life for them”
This example reflects the major “European attitude” towards FGM which completely misses the point and only keeps alive the smoke-screen about “other culture and tradition”.
Regardless of specific FGM-laws or application of the regular penal code (France), the true European policy towards FGM implies a veritable “policy of offender’s protection”:
Not a single European country has adopted adequate legal frame-conditions which are adapted to the specifics of FGM and are suited to identify the main-offenders (parents or other family-numbers) and make serious prosecution possible.
Recently, we identified the most important key to the offender’s protection – in the majority of European countries: The patient/physician confidentiality. Referring to this confidentiality, which is regulated by law, they are not allowed to report detected mutilations of girls to the police or State attorney: We have a handful of hints and cases where little girls have been mutilated here in Germany by an imported mutilator – and then have been taken, bleeding, half-dead to German hospitals. Later, the mutilators left without any consequence.
Also, in Hamburg, a paediatrist has knowledge about three mutilated girls in one family – and two younger girls who are at risk – but the doctor remains silent, although, in case of the girls at risk, she would be allowed to report to the social services (but she’s not obliged).
In very few countries like in France, medical personal has a duty to report – but as this is not linked to compulsory check-ups, it is still very easy to keep the crime hidden and remains a “toothless tiger”.
And unfortunately, one should not underestimate the active participation of the medical fraternity in holding this policy of silence up: In Germany, the Medical Association and the ministry of health, are in the first line to boycott any attempt to implement a duty to report genital mutilations (and other grievous forms of violence) on helpless children.
FP: So there is no real protection of potential victims. Migrant girls in Europe are defencelessly delivered to FGM.
Laufer: Yes there is no real protection. Like the 13-years old Swedish girl, that had been mutilated on a journey to Somalia, thousands of little girls who live in Europe and even are born here, can not count on any help from the European authorities or governments. There is an unchecked traffic of girls to the countries of origin for the mutilation purpose, especially during summer-holidays.
Since 2004, Germany has been taking a leading position in Europe in preventing girls at risk from being brought out of the country: There are about 10 court decisions to protect girls from being exported to the high-risk-countries Ethiopia, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Gambia because of the high risk to be submitted to FGM.
The number of protected girls is 14, about half are girls from bi-national partnerships.
However: to up to 50.000 girls are at risk in Germany, similar protection is denied.
In about 50% of the court-cases, the TaskForce had been involved and had co-operated with the social services as well as with the courts by delivering relevant information.
In the most recent case, we initiated a court proceeding to prevent a 10-year-old girl from being sent to Ethiopia. This case had attracted the attention of the German mass-media and lea to a large defamation-campaign against the TaskForce: We were called racist, putting an “innocent family” under general suspicion and so on.
Of course, in this context, it has been blinded out, but what it would have meant for the potential victim is that she would have been brought to Ethiopia, mutilated and even left there.
Those reactions are quite foreseeable – as the offenders do have a voice and lobby, while the minor victims do not.
It is time now to name the consequences of the major European policy of tolerance and non-interference towards FGM: This policy leads to a major discrimination of the potential victims: On them, a form of grievous violence is tolerated that would never be acceptable for Western children. Consciously and knowingly, to these girls the same standard of safety and protection as for western children, is denied.
With this policy, the governments act contrary to their constitutions and the European Human Rights Convention (EHRC). The governments must be considered responsible for the copious spread of this crime in front of our doors.
FP: Ines Laufer, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview and thank you for your courageous fight against this crime against little girls.
See information about Jemen: "The state-run Yemen Demographic Mother and Child Health survey (YDMCH), conducted in 1999 and early 2000 in five governorates, concluded that FGM was performed on 97 percent of girls and women in the Hodeidah district; 96 percent in al-Mahrah and Hadramawt; 82 percent in Aden; and 45.5 percent in Sana’a." source. FGM in Kurdistan: FGM in Indonesia: "She has now joined a quiet majority in Indonesia, where, according to a 2003 study by the Population Council, an international research group, 96 percent of families surveyed reported that their daughters had undergone some form of circumcision by the time they reached 14."