Sophie Claudet: “Could you briefly sum up the cultural origins of female genital mutilation?”
Isabelle Gillette-Faye, French expert and campaigner on both FGM and forced marriages:
“We can trace this practice back to the sixth century B.C., so before the Jewish, Christian or Muslim faiths. However it really took root and developed in eastern Africa , the Nile region, and then spread, notably to central America and west Africa. The ritual was initially above all about female fertility or better harvests, so these were essentially animist rites.”
Sophie Claudet: “Forced marriage is punishable under criminal law in a dozen European countries only. Is punishing this crime enough? Should other countries punish it as well?”
Isabelle Gillette-Faye: “If we want to change the global behaviour of the populations that are directly concerned you need two things in tandem. Preventive measures for the adults, and for adolescents, both male and female, sensitization and, if the message doesn’t get across, repressive measures should then be used.”
Sophie Claudet: “Are there any EU countries that provide us with a successful model for fighting against forced marriages or FGM?”
Isabelle Gillette-Faye: “France is one country recognised as having been working on the problem of FGM for the longest; right at the start of the 1980s there were prosecutions, public information campaigns and training of professionals, so in thirty years a tight tissue of state and volunteer associations has grown up.
For forced marriages I think Britain is a very good example because they set up things very early, like for example a dedicated police unit with the power to intervene at UK airports to stop young girls at risk of forced marriage from leaving.
There were also sensitization and information campaigns, telephone hotlines for people in danger were set up, and safe places to stay.”
Sophie Claudet: “Among the women entering Europe today some are coming from zones where forced marriage and FGM is common. Are the new waves of migration going to give fresh impetus to these practices? Do we need new targeted information and sensitization campaigns for these communities?”
Isabelle Gillette-Faye: “In any case every new wave of immigration obliges us to think about womens’ rights, violence, and how to act to protect eventual and potential victims.
The starting point has to be the information you have on the ground.
Did their counties of origin already have prevention, sensitization and information policies? Had prevention and protection strategies been applied? This is important because for them to work EU nations need their policies to be tailored and adapted to theirs, if they exist.”