By Chinedu Onyejelem
The fight against female genital mutilation (FGM) would be boosted if the Government ratifies the Istanbul Convention.
That was the message from Salome Mbugua, president of the migrant women’s network Akidwa, who spoke at the recent launch of United to End FGM – an EU-funded online information and educational resource – held on Monday 6 February, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
Mbugua said ratifying the Istanbul Convention would guarantee “prevention, protection, provision of services and promotion of organisations” working on issues related to FGM.
The Istanbul Convention is aimed at ending all forms of violence against women. The Council of Europe convention also compels all EU member states to take all available actions against such gender-based violence and ensure that victims are protected as perpetrators are prosecuted.
AkiDwA, which co-ordinates United to End FGM in Ireland, is one of 16 organisations across the EU implementing the project.
The network estimates that some 3,780 women living in Ireland have been violated by FGM, based on the number of women who have immigrated here from countries where the practice has a high prevalence.
Mbugua’s comments were echoed by Senator Alice Mary Higgins, who launched the resource.
“The Government needs to allocate resources to meet their obligation under the Istanbul Convention,” she said. “When that decision is made, the e-learning platform should be one of the initiatives that funding should be allocated to.”
Higgins added that the new platform is vital helping GPs and maternity services in Ireland dealing with FGM-related issues, and educating others to recognise the various signs and risks associated with FGM.
The senator also called on the media to be sensitive when covering the issue. “It is really important that the media do not stereotype cultural practices,” she said.
“Initiatives to challenge FGM have come from migrant-led organisations and immigrants, and people could become silent if they think coverage is attacking their culture.”
Higgins urged those working to eradicate FGM to intensify their efforts “at the community level”.
United to End FGM’s Ireland co-ordinator Amaka Okonkwo said the online platform includes country-specific information for 11 EU member states, an e-learning course in nine different languages, a live section with webinars and an online discussion forum geared towards a variety of professionals in the media, healthcare and social services, the legal field and rights activism, among others.