Wednesday, August 17, 2005

In case you thought...

...that female circumcision was largely restricted to Africa, think again.

A German aid group finds the first solid proof of the practice, thought to be prevalent in the Middle East.

They're estimating 60% of the women in parts of Kurdish Iraq have been inflicted with the procedure. Not the urban centers but the rural areas.

The phenomenon has been so hard to document, however, because the practice is veiled in secrecy. And while some attitudes are beginning to change, this is slow. And meanwhile there is extreme social pressure and hounding.

Women are still thought to be promiscuous if they are uncircumcised, some people here say.

"They say the food an uncircumcised woman cooks is unclean," says Shirin Ali, "and that a circumcised girl has more affection for her family."

WADI workers said that four months ago in a village just north of Hasira, a newly married - and uncircumcised - woman was so badly treated by her in-laws that she performed the operation on herself.

Hero Umar, the social worker, nonetheless thinks attitudes are slowly beginning to change.

"Most imams are cooperative," she notes. "The biggest obstacle remaining is the older generation of women."

Which, unfortunately for us, is a far better reason than either Cindy Sheehan or the recent electoral gender gaps to be annoyed at other members of the female sex.

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