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.
I would like to build on our last interview about your efforts to save migrant girls in Europe from FGM (Female Genital Mutilation).
Can you talk a bit about the situation in African, Arabian and Asian countries and how female genital mutilation is affected their by European development policies?
Laufer: European governmental and non-governmental development-policy widely undermines and hinders the efforts to eradicate FGM in African/Arab/Asian countries.
Since the early 1980’s, there have been numerous initiatives, networks and organisations on the African continent that are committed to the eradication of FGM in their countries. The largest network - that is still active today - is the InterAfrican Committé (IAC) which was founded in 1984. At that time, the majority of development-agencies, as well as the WorldHealthOrganisation, UNICEF and other UN-agencies, refused to put the problem of FGM on their agenda and to support initiatives like the IAC, because they did not want to “interfere into a cultural custom.”
In the 1990s, organisations like UNICEF realised that FGM is very well suited to be exploited for raising funds. They created projects and called for generous donations within the Western population. It worked. For instance, to UNICEF Germany, the German people donated more than half a million D-Mark alone in 1994, for a FGM-project in Ethiopia – after a TV-broadcast and big article in STERN-magazine witnessed the live-mutilation of an Ethiopian girl-victim.
Today, 15 years later, UNICEF Germany still requires money for this project – that is likely to have yielded a few million Euros over the time (which is only an estimation, because UNICEF refuses to disclose the true amount). Only recently asked for measurable results of this concrete project – within such a long time - UNICEF is not able to give concrete answers. Obviously, because there aren’t lasting results. This would not even be a big surprise – because so-called “education-campaigns” which are destined to teach the mutilating families and mutilators about the devastating effects of FGM, generally widely failed.
And of course, they had to fail – because FGM is not an “exotic custom” that people perpetrate because they “don’t know better” – no – FGM is a very specific and very systematic kind of legitimized violence against a certain group of members (female children) in the concerned societies.
The consequences of the sexual mutilation of little girls are very well known and realised in all mutilating ethnic groups – but they are knowingly accepted while the girl’s individual health and well-being are subordinated to the male’s claim for sexual control.
So, while millions of donations are gathered and partly invested into disputable, unsuccessful projects, UNICEF knowingly accepts that the girls in all projects which are funded by the UN-agency – continue to be mutilated.
UNICEF – as well as all large development-agencies - refuse to integrate the abandonment of FGM in the project-areas into their support-conditions.
FP: Doesn’t all of this violate some kind of law?
Laufer: This policy of tolerance and acceptance towards FGM – and other forms of violence against children – strictly contradicts the UN-convention of Children’s Rights which has been created in 1989 and signed by all countries except Somalia and the USA and which could be a strong instrument to call for the respect of children’s rights within every single project.
By neglecting to consequently demand the girl’s protection from FGM,UNICEF and Co. must be considered complicit for the mutilation of thousands of little girls in the projects.
Furthermore, in ingratiation to the US-development-concern USaid for monetary reasons, UNICEF now consequently trivialises FGM as “Female Genital Cutting”, in German even as “Circumcision” and so paternalistically overrides the call of African activists to maintain the proper terminology “Female Genital Mutilation” – and even threatened to refuse funds to African groups who named the practice “FGM.”
Other non-governmental development-agencies like PLAN International, WorldVision, Kindernothilfe and CCF Kinderhilfswerk work with a very lucrative system: They market so-called “sponsored children” to open the wallets of empathetic donors: They promise to use the money for guaranteeing a “better life” to the children. Up to 100 Million Euros, they acquire each year.
But none of these organisations is willing to protect the sponsored girl-children from FGM by including this point into the conditions for the project-partners:
Up to 400,000 sponsored girls in countries where FGM is practised are submitted to FGM – in front of the eyes of those hypocritical organisations, while they carry a yield of hundreds of millions to the organisation’s accounts.
We have documents where - the 100% avoidable - death of sponsored girls after FGM is reported. The donors of course are not told about the girl’s death-cause and that it has easily could have been avoided.
By financially and materially supporting those villages, communities and male decision-makers who are not willing to respect a least standard of children’s rights, who insist that the female children in their communities are mistreated by FGM, the repressive structures which largely hinder any chance of lasting development, are strengthened.
This hinders and undermines the serious work of initiatives like IAC and makes their efforts much more difficult.
The damage that is caused by this policy can not be compensated by the peanut-amounts which are spent by these organisations to a few selected projects who mainly aim to fight FGM.
The same critics against the FGM-tolerating policy of NGOs also needs to be addressed to the governmental development-aid:
Germany is the world’s second largest donator of development-aid. Those governments who propagate, perpetuate and tolerate FGM in their countries, who disrespect the most fundamental human rights – and therefore largely hinder their societies from lasting development – are generously supported. In 2007, more than 700 millions of German taxpayer’s money have been flowing to these governments, mostly to fulfil their economical requests.
Egypt alone, which just comes from re-legalising FGM, received 100 million Euros. And Ethiopia, whose government in 2008 adopted a law that will lead to a major “famishment” of most human rights-organisations in the country, received not less than 70 million Euros. Alone from Germany.
No conditions, no call for the respect of Human- and children’s rights are linked to such generous support.
This policy again strengthens political leaders and governments who are far away from caring about the violent oppression of their female members in the society. This makes true development impossible.
Just recently, Günter Nooke – commissioner for human rights within the German government – had called to stop payments to countries who do not respect fundamental human rights He has roughly been answered back by the German ministry of development.
As long as in the governmental development-policy obviously is interested in very own objectives which seem to be more linked to economical and political influence than to true development – and as long as the tax-payers do not really care about the doubtful usage of their money, this situation will not change.
FP: Ines Laufer, thank you for bringing awareness to this issue.