Female mutilation in the Caucasus
The study on female mutilation practiced in Dagestan, made public by Legal Initiative for Russia, came as a shock. It turned out, that girls aged 2-3 are being subjected to female mutilation and have their clitoris removed, in order “to appease their femininity, as local religious leaders explain.
The authors of the study claim they had faced numerous obstacles while implementing it. The women polled were reluctant to discuss the operations that left them crippled, calling them “private life and “part of the religious tradition.
Finally 25 women were persuaded to be polled, aging from 19 to 70 and of various social status: pensioners, housewives, students, lawyers, teachers, engineers, trade companies employees. All of them have been subjected to female mutilation.
As it turned out, the girls usually undergo mutilation in early age, up to 3 years. The girls have their clitoris removed or damaged. Imam of the Central mosque explained briefly the purpose of the operation: “The main thing is to extinguish girls sexuality and sensitivity.
The authors cite the UN documents and other international acts, qualifying the operations on female genitalia as crippling.
“Fearsome, wild, harmful, perverse practices… The operations of the kind… represent the utmost form of discrimination and violence. They violate woman`s right to health, security and physical immunity, the right to stay free of tortures and cruel, inhuman or humiliating attitude, the right to life in cases the operations lead to death.
This is how the situation is being assessed by human rights activists. What do women themselves, local experts and authorities think of it?
Almost all the women polled claimed to support the tradition. The majority said they have already had their daughters subjected to the ritual or are planning to do so.
“All Muslim women have to do it. Otherwise you are not a Muslim.
“I went through it, and my children and grandchildren should.
Supposedly, for the women polled being mutilated is the way to recognize and prove themselves to be part oftheir communities. To have the girl taken to mutilation means strengthening the family reputation, enhancing the chances for reproduction, the study says.
Few respondents claimed they could avoid the ritual: “Some are not subjected to mutilation. But such cases are few, and the opinion has been expressed mostly by the women in interethnic marriage or migrants from the mountainous regions – in other words, by those, who for some reasons have lost connection with big families.
Experts reacted in two basic manners.
Some listened with surprise and claimed they have never heard about female mutilation. Others were indignant: “They deprive people of joy. This is barbaric. It goes against nature.
Medical experts noted the cruelty of the manipulation and the danger of it. A forensic scientist agreed that the practice “can be qualified as damaging to health. Infections may occur, especially in insanitary conditions. Even boys experience serious problems when being circumcised not by doctors.
The lawyers polled noted,that mutilation “is a crime against health, but the problem is of local nature, and there are no regulations. A woman expert said: “I heard about the manipulation from the friends. It causes loss of inclination.
The experts from the bodies responsible for guardianship and trusteeship responded when polled, that they do not deal with the problems of the kind – “others are plentiful.
The response from one of women`s organizations said, that “we do not discuss what is written in Koran, but obey… as one can; it is desirable, highly desirable, but not a duty.
IntizarMamutayeva, Dagestan Ombudswoman for Children commented: “We have sent inquiries to the Education Ministry and law-enforcement bodies. We called it violation of children`s rights and… violence against minors.
Both respondents and experts polled often explained the necessity of mutilation by Islamic tradition. But religious experts were not unanimous.
For instance, a Salafi imam noted ,that “it is not obligatory and dubious.
Imam of the Kumyk mosque stressed, that mutilation is not obligatory and is undesirable, citing the ban on damaging health and human organs.
At the same time the imam of the Makhachkala mosque said: “Avoiding mutilation is a sin.
The study comes to the conclusion, that generally the subject of the crippling operations is as tricttaboo, but officials and influential religious leaders support the practiceand promote mutilation as one`sduty.
The dialogue between the Moscow official and the local religious leader
Female mutilation has become the subject of correspondence dispute involving Anita Soboleva, member of the Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights, and Ismail Berdieyev, chairman, Northern Caucasus Muslim Coordination Centre, Caucasian Knot reports
“The subject should be discussed within the expert community only, so that not to promote the ritual. It is a hidden problem,not being discussed outside the communities, and I am afraid if men of radical communities read on this … it could be another way to swagger women. The tradition may crawl into new places.
She does not believe the regulations may help, as children are being mutilated with their parents permission.
Ismail Berdiyev disagreed and claimed that “it is being done in order to appease their femininityand does not endanger health in any way.
Social networks users (quoted by Caucasian Knot site)
Public reaction to the study in Dagestan varied.
“I do not understand, where they have dug it out. I have been living in Dagestan for 37 years and have never heard of it
“The rituals that have nothing in common with Islam… posed as traditional”
“These are isolated cases of obscurantism
“Medieval savagery in the XXI century. This is horrifying
“Does not endanger health – for sure. They occasionally die, but health is not endangered