By Joel Balsinha,Lisbon,Portugal
The case of a one-and-a-half-year-old baby victim of female genital mutilation (FGM), who was on trial in the Sintra Court, ended this January with the sentencing of the Guinean mother to three years in prison and the compensation paymant of ten thousand euros, in Portugal. In 2020 alone, health professionals detected 101 cases of female genital mutilation.The crime, according to the data obtained, took place about two years ago on a trip to Guinea-Bissau, in the African continent, where the mutilation took place, and was detected on the return to Portugal by health professionals at the time of a medical consultation.
The suspicions led to a request for expertise to verify the reasons for the origin of the urinary infection.”By unanimously endorsing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 193 Member States pledged to eradicate FGM by 2030. The goal of the Sustainable Development Goals is“ to eliminate all harmful practices, such as premature marriages , forced and child, and female genital mutilation”.In addition, many human rights treaties and conventions require states parties to take all measures – including the enactment of laws – to end FGM, “advances the same UNFPA report that discriminates against countries with” laws, executive decrees or resolutions related to female genital mutilation: Australia, in six out of eight states, between 1994 and 2006, Austria in 2002, Belgium in 2000, Benin in 2003, Burkina Faso in 1996, Canada in 1997, the Central African Republic in 1996 and 2006, Chad in 2003, Colombia in 2009, Côte d’Ivoire in 1998, Cyprus in 2003, Denmark in 2003, Djibouti in 1994 and 2009, Egypt in 2008, Eritrea in 2007, Ethiopia in 2004, France in 1979, Gambia in 2015, Ghana in 1994 and 2007, Guinea in 1965 and 2000, Guinea-Bissau in 2011, Ireland in 2012, Italy in 2005, Liberia in 2018, Luxembourg in 2008, Kenya in 2001 and 2011, Mauritania in 2005, New Zealand in 1995, Niger in 2003, Nigeria in 2015, Norway in 1 995, Portugal in 2007, Senegal in 1999, South Africa in 2000, Spain in 2003, Sudan in South Kordofan in 2008 and Gedaref in 2009, Sweden in 1982 and 1998, Switzerland in 2005 and 2012, Tanzania in 1998, Togo in 1998, Uganda in 2010, the United Kingdom in 1985, the United States in 1996 and Zambia in 2005 and 2011 “, describes the UNFPA report – United Nations Population Fund, made publicly available and which we had access to, which addresses the issue of female genital mutilation – socially sanctioned gender violence.
The crime of Female Genital Mutilation came into effect in Portugal in September 2015. Until that time, the practice of this type of crime was punished as being offenses to serious physical integrity. This case comes to court for the first time five years after the entry into force of this offense, punished by criminal law, in the case law of Sintra. In the process, a young mother is “accused of practicing or authorizing this practice on her baby daughter, who was about a year and a half old when both were in Guinea-Bissau”.
This process has finally come to an end. This act is punishable by two to ten years in prison. The sentence of the Guinean citizen, who resides on national soil, was three years in prison. During the trial, her daughter was subjected to medical examination, and scars related to type IV female genital mutilation were found, a crime for which the defendant was accused, which constituted evidence.Aspect that from the first hour, the victim’s mother contested and that she always claimed in defense that what happened in the child was caused by “diaper rash”, as mentioned in a consultation at the health center in 2019.
Data from national and global organizations that fight against this crime reveal that about 6,576 women over the age of fifteen in Portugal may be subject to this practice based on “partial or total removal of external female genitals”, at the European Union level about five hundred thousand and two hundred million in the world.In Portugal, a pilot project of “Healthy Practices – Ending Female Genital Mutilation” emerged, coordinated by the Regional Health Administration of Lisbon and Vale do Tejo, the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (CIG) and the High Commission for Migrations, created in 2018, and implemented in the Health Center Groupings (ACES) Almada-Seixal, Amadora, Arco Ribeirinho, Loures-Odivelas and Sintra and currently extended to Cascais, Tagus Estuary, Central Lisbon, Western Lisbon and Oeiras, and Lisbon North, to understand this phenomenon and combat this criminal practice.
“The end of FGM by 2030 is within reach, but accelerated action is required, or the goal will not be reached and millions more girls will be harmed, with their rights violated […] This year, begins the“ Decade of Action” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 – including the end of harmful practices. To achieve our goal and protect millions of women and girls whose bodily integrity is threatened, the time has come for us to do even more.The pace of our progress should be even faster.Governments must fulfill their obligation to protect girls and women from harm. Human rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, guide governments to “take all effective and appropriate measures with the aim of abolishing traditional practices harmful to children’s health”.Getting to zero can be difficult, but we have no doubt that it is possible. After all, some harmful practices have persisted over the centuries. However, change will come – and it must come. The first step in changing attitudes and social norms is to educate parents about the consequences that harmful practices have for their daughters and the benefits they bring to families and communities when girls are healthy and empowered, and their rights are respected. We know that actions that place women, men, girls and boys on an equal footing in all walks of life can help transform long-standing harmful traditions. We know that dismantling patrilineal property and inheritance systems can also help to dismantle the institution of child marriage. We know what works […] Since the beginning of 2020, the world has faced an unprecedented pandemic, with Covid-19 spreading rapidly around the world, taking lives and wreaking havoc on societies and economies.In this time of adversity, UNFPA will continue to protect the health and rights of women and girls in the countries and communities in which we work”, points out Natalia Kanem, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund in the report which addresses the issue of female genital mutilation.
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