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 back to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to build on our last interview about the myths about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by discussing a specific case you have been dealing with recently. This case reveals
how young girls in the West are far from being safe from female genital mutilation. Your network tried to save a girl from being sent back to Ethiopia and coming under risk of FGM. Introduce us to this case. Why does the Task Force see such a high risk for her to be submitted to FGM during her stay in Ethiopia?
Laufer: The answer, Jamie, is short and simple: It is because of the social reality to which the girl will be exposed to in Ethiopia. That reality is that up to 70% of the Christian female girl children in the country are being mutilated by having their clitoris and labia cut off. It is a reality that clearly shows that FGM is perpetrated among educated people at the same level as among uneducated ones. In cities like Addis Abeba, for example, it is occurring at an even higher dimension than in some rural areas.
We also know that almost 90% of the mutilations on girl-children who live in European countries, are perpetrated during “holiday journeys” to their countries of origin.
So, if a little girl is intended to be sent back to Ethiopia for long “holidays” or, like in our case, for an uncertain time, one needs to be completely blinded or simply ignorant not to see that danger.
In fact, there is such a high presumption that the girl’s family belongs to the predominant
majority in the country that mutilates their daughters, that the high risk must be seen as an
obvious fact - as long as the family does not deliver the proof that they do not perpetrate this crime. To get this proof is very easy by the way: It would be the medically approved claim about the genital intactness of the female family members.
In our concrete case, this proof has never been demanded nor delivered.
FP: The higher regional court in Karlsruhe has now allowed the girl to be brought out of the country. On what information did it base its decision? How do we interpret this decision?
Laufer: First, it is important to say that this is the very first time that a German court allowed a minor girl to be put at risk of FGM in the country of her parent’s origin. In more than ten other cases in recent years, all courts decided to protect the children by prohibiting their parents from bringing them back to the high-risk-countries.
The main source for the fatal decision in Karlsruhe is a letter from the German Embassy in Ethiopia which had been asked by the court to give a statement about the possible FGM-risk for the little girl. Michael Grimm, member of the Embassy, visited the girl’s grandparents in Addis Abeba – had a conversation with them and they assured him that they did not intend to mutilate the girl. So he wrote that there would be no danger and risk for the girl – because the family leaves an “educated, modern and cultivated” impression and “did not mutilate other daughters or granddaughters.” But he did not know this for certain because he did not ask for any proof.
He goes to such lengths that he himself “personally” vouches that the girl would not be submitted to FGM. The fact that the court follows this statement and agrees that there is “no evidence of danger” shows that the judges completely ignore the mechanisms of FGM as a very systematic form of violence against children.
Could you imagine that – if any other form of crime or violence would be concerned – anyone would state that people would not be able to commit such crimes because they leave a “friendly, cultivated and friendly impression?” Or that one would await that people would truthfully admit to be planning the crime if members of any authority ring at the door and ask that question? Certainly not. If in our case one would replace the problem of FGM by other forms of violence and crime, one would see even better how ridiculous, unbelievably incompetent and ignorant the behaviour of the Embassy and the court remains.
Implicit, Mr. Grimm and the court do stigmatize the growing circle of mutilation offenders who are “well-educated, cultivated and modern” but who nevertheless continue to submit their daughters to genital mutilation.
Last but not least – to get an idea about how “friendly and cultivated” the concerned family really is, please have a look at a message they sent to a Task Force member:
"...Let me give you some free advice. please do faver for the West germany go back where you belong to Dresden and Hang Your self ugly ass ignorant motherfucker Loser OSYEBITCH piece of shit..."
FP: What role did the Department for Foreign Affairs in Berlin play?
Laufer: As soon as we got informed about the devastating misjudgement of the German Embassy, we sent a well-funded complaint to the Department for Foreign Affairs in Berlin and asked to review and revise the statement of the Embassy. The Department for Foreign Affairs did not even go into our arguments and refused to interfere. Officially, they still refuse to give any statement, but a member of the Department told me in private that, in his opinion, the Embassy’s evaluation should never have been given in this way nor brought to the court as a possible base for a far-ranging decision. Officially, one is not willing to correct an obvious mistake, although this could lead to unspeakable pain and suffering for a little girl.
FP: What did the Task Force do to alert the public and to deliver substantiated information which fortifies the view that letting the girl be brought to Ethiopia will lead to an irresponsible risk of her being submitted to FGM? Do not the German government and German authorities have a responsibility to protect children from violence and mistreatment?
Laufer: Of course, the German government and authorities have the duty to protect the children in our country from violence and mistreatment, which is not an act of “voluntary charity” but a duty that is directly based on our constitution and system of law.
As the higher regional court decided to allow the girl’s “journey” to Ethiopia, based on the ridiculous and professionally wrong evaluation of the German Embassy, the authority which has the responsibility for the girl’s safety, the District office, could have taken the case to the highest supreme-court. This would have been the last chance for the girl to seek protection.
But the District office – that until then had always claimed that it was convinced about the high FGM-risk for the girl, and to allow the journey would simply be irresponsible – decided NOT to go to the highest supreme-court. Obviously, they finally wanted to file the “inconvenient case” away – regardless the veritable risk and danger that this/it consists for the child!
As there were only few days left to change their opinion, we launched a German and international petition to put the District office under pressure to go the step to the highest supreme court: In this process, we faced a veritable wave of solidarity from people who expressed their concern about this little girl’s right to integrity and dignity: Within very view days, we gathered more than 1,300 signatures, many from doctors, lawyers, judges, organisations, etc. (To see the English petition, click here)
These signatures have been transferred to the District office, together with a list of seven arguments, facts and proofs which underline the imperative need to bring the case to the highest supreme-court. Because of the high risk that must be seen for the girl and this would be the last chance to guarantee her protection.
FP: How did the concerned authority - the District office - react to the revised information?
Laufer: Despite all arguments and the petition, the District office confirmed its decision to accept the adjudication of the higher regional court – and to allow the girl to be brought to Ethiopia and be put at the risk of genital mutilation. We received this information one day before the end of the appeal period.
FP: Brought to the authority above the District Office, the Regional Board/Regional Council, what happened with the case? What are the statements of the Regional board?
Laufer: Well, you need to know that the Regional Board/Regional Council had the competence to give the compulsory order to the District office to bring the case to the highest supreme-court. The district president himself could have given this order. So – to use this last opportunity – we informed the Regional Board/Regional Council and urged the responsible persons to instruct the District office to go to the highest supreme-court. They did not – because they preferred to respect and not to question the “high prestige” of the higher regional court in Karlsruhe – despite comprehensive information about the obvious errors and mistakes we had discovered around the court’s decision. They refused to give order to the District office – without even having read the decision of the court. And they refuse until now to give any further statement about the case.
FP: What is the conclusion of this case? What does it reflect? What does it mean for future cases?
Laufer: The result of the case is this: a little girl is definitely allowed to be brought to a country where the majority of girl children are submitted to female genital mutilation - although there is no evidence nor proof that the family belongs to the Ethiopian minority who do not mutilate their daughters.
The conclusion is this: if now the girl becomes a victim of FGM during her stay in Ethiopia, the German Embassy in Ethiopia, the Department for Foreign Affairs in Berlin, the judge of the higher regional court in Karlsruhe, the District office and the Regional Board/Regional Council must be considered complicit and responsible – because they all ignored the well-founded information that described and underlined the factual big danger this girl will be exposed to.
What the case reflects: if one analyses the arguments and statements of the court in Karlsruhe, one discovers something embarrassing. The decision is much more political than juridical and the judges make a veritable political example. For instance, the phrase “We can not put people from such countries under a general suspicion….” shows the large political dimension of the case.
While all other courts balanced with care the different interests and always focussed the rights of the girls to bodily integrity and dignity – the court in Karlsruhe failed to do so. The judges there focus on the interests of the potential offenders and their “right not to be stigmatized”. Of course, they “forget” to discuss the possible devastating consequences for the girl. The interests and rights of the child are sacrificed, just to avoid the confrontation with migrants who of course are not interested at all in a consequent denouncement of the large dimension of specific crimes and imported violence they continue perpetrating with cultural and religious legitimation “in front of our doors.”
For future cases, there will certainly be a growing uncertainty of authorities and courts in terms of how to properly treat the cases of FGM. In the worst case, there will be more girls whose right to protection will be denied, who will be submitted to the violence of female genital mutilation although there would have been legal ways and possibilities to protect them – and although it is the duty of the German authorities to prevent the girls from violence and mistreatment.
FP: What were the reactions of other NGOs in Germany who deal with the problem of FGM?
Laufer: The reactions of other German NGOs bring something to light that has never been so clear before: there is a fundamental, insurmountable clash of interests among the organizations who deal with the problem of FGM.
In Germany, there are organisations like Forward or Terre des Femmes who mainly focus on the interests of the families and potential offenders. They did never and would never disturb the families by going to a court and demanding legal measures to protect potential victims.
They implicitly accept that little girls are submitted to FGM – in the case when they fail with their preferred strategy of “dialogue and convincing people”. This attitude and behaviour reflects such a hypocrisy and might have lead to countless victims over the years, that I am not willing and able to overlook this “policy of offender’s protection” any longer.
I think that the time is overdue to denounce these facts – and therefore make a much more critical reflection within the public and among politicians possible.
In the current case, both mentioned organizations widely hindered the efforts of the Task Force to protect the little girl: publicly, they brushed off our approach as “wrong, racist, discriminatory”. It is not even a coincidence that in the decision of the court in Karlsruhe similar phrases are to find.
Forward not only defamed the Task Force’s work – but manipulated the print and tv media in a very dishonest way. Publicly, they claimed that “this family is innocent, there is no risk for the girl – and it is a big injustice to presume that they would be able to mutilate the girl.” Now that the girl will be brought to Ethiopia, it had become clear how they lied and are, of course, and have always been, aware of the danger and risk for the child. Fadumo Korn, a member of Forward who strictly refuses the consequent interference of German authorities in cases of FGM, plans to travel to Ethiopia herself to “speak with the grandparents and make sure that the girl will not be mutilated.”
Fadumo Korn, a migrant from Somalia, obviously does not understand yet the most fundamental principles of the German constitution, a democratic system based on universal human rights with a clear dispersion of duties and responsibilities: to protect a girl from FGM – or other violence – is first of all the duty of the authorities and courts – not the one of single migrants who are not qualified nor with good prospects to effectively prevent this crime. By constantly opposing and hindering the authorities’ interference, Fadumo Korn and other “followers” show first of all an obvious deep disrespect towards our laws, constitution and principles of the society.
The large majority of German organisations who officially claim to work for an end of FGM – more than 20 of them are organised in the network INTEGRA – have not done any effort to help protecting the little girl. They did not even give a statement or comment - although the case had been very present in the media and public.
Summing up, we have to realize that the those organizations who are strictly committed to the protection of girls – even against the will of their parents and families – represent a very small minority, not only in Germany but in whole Europe: They can be counted on two hands and include for instance Intact and Target Human Rights in Germany, Human Rights Services in Norway, CAMS in France and eventually No Peace Without Justice in Italy and Belgium.
Taking this fact into consideration, it becomes more explainable and logical, why in the last decade almost no effort at all could be achieved to end FGM in Germany/Europe.
FP: Where are all the leftist feminists who are supposedly for women’s rights? Where are they to protect this girl? Where are the liberal leftists who are supposedly for human rights?
Laufer: Good question Jamie and to be honest, I ask the same, because we face either hypocrisy or a veritable “conspiracy of silence.” Just one example. Alice Schwarzer, Germany’s “role-model” feminist who is known and notorious for her clear words and inconvenient statements about gender-apartheid and oppression of women in Islam, did not, in recent years, say or write anything worthy of mention about the situation of girls related to FGM – even though it is one of the most clear symptoms of gender-based violence and oppression against female human beings. There might be a relation to the fact that she is the “Chairlady” of Forward.
Let me assume the following: in the last decade, only very view leftists or feminists really contributed to a measurable amelioration of the situation in Germany/Europe concerning the problem of female genital mutilation. In contrary, Terre des Femmes, the largest German women’s rights organisation, including a large number of leftist feminists, increasingly prioritizes the interests of mutilation-offenders, focuses on the interests of the parents instead of on the protection of the children and actively hinders the work of organizations like the Task Force who do work for the protection of children by implementing legal measures.
FP: Ines Laufer, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.