Female genital mutilation constitutes a serious breach of children’s and human rights, and is a particularly drastic form of physical female suppression. According to data analyses, there were a total of 25,325 girls under the age of 18 living in Germany in 2015 as the first or second generation of people to have come from countries where female genital mutilation is practised. In view of the national prevalence, between 1,558 and 5,684 of these girls, under the age of 18 and living in Germany, were at risk of genital mutilation in 2015. This does not include girls without papers, girls who have already been naturalised, and German girls at risk. The documentation of the research services of the German Federal Parliament, which was completed on 24 April 2018, provides a very structured initial, but not entirely comprehensive overview.
As genital mutilation is a cultural practice and not medically required, General Comment No. 18 brands it a harmful practice that breaches Articles 3 and 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Member State is obliged to abolish traditional customs posing a hazard to health, such as genital mutilation, and guarantee that the highest possible degree of health can be achieved. The accessibility of children in need of protection must, depending on age, also be controlled by guardians or social workers. The organisations and associations currently working Germany-wide to combat genital mutilation are not enough to properly attend to all those affected. The exact number of establishments protecting girls of all ages is difficult to determine. Some of them stipulate a minimum admission age of 13 or 14 years.
There are clear shortcomings in the treatment of refugee women and girls. In accordance with Article 22 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, refugee women and their families must, irrespective of their residence status, be informed of their rights and options for treatment and follow-up care for genital mutilation upon arrival in the contractual state. Many affected women currently struggle to find experienced specialists, as not a lot is known about the issue, and doctors are not totally confident in their ability to deal with it. Parents of at-risk refugee girls, or the girls themselves, are often also not adequately informed of their rights, meaning the threat of genital mutilation upon their return is not sufficiently taken into account during the asylum process.
Furthermore, change within the communities is essential. To achieve this, relevant institutions pivotal in terms of both prevention and support – from national to municipal level – need to be involved and informed. This particularly applies to religious authorities, teachers, youth welfare offices, gynaecologists and paediatricians. Actions must be driven by a notion of empowering and supporting the legal and financial independence of women.
- The National Coalition Germany recommends that the UN Committee call on the German federal government to
- 65. Proactively take further low-threshold measures to combat genital mutilation, including by providing adequate resources to municipalities, and review the effectiveness of existing measures;
- 66. Introduce advanced-training programmes for staff at the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in relation to children’s rights, including genital mutilation;
- 67. Train medical staff in issues relating to genital mutilation;
- 68. Commission human-rights-based data collection, and review the effectiveness of the current reporting systems.