An estimated 41,000 women who have been circumcised live in our country. About 4200 girls are still at risk of being circumcised in the coming years, according to figures from knowledge institute Pharos and the GGDs. In the Netherlands it is not allowed, so girls usually move abroad under pressure from the family, usually the country of birth of the parents.
The Kurian-Iraqi Dilsoz Amin (now 55) fell victim to this form of mutilation, together with her sisters, at home in her native country. She was seven years old. Amin tells her story with a goal: to hope that she can break through this culture and save girls from this form of abuse.
“It is a tradition that is persistent and especially women surrender to each other. A tradition that, as crazy as it sounds, mothers or aunts do for their daughters with good intentions. For a better future. In some cultures they also believe that circumcision prevent diseases such as cervical cancer.”
The procedure is often done within a few minutes. “Often with a peeler, against all hygiene protocols.” Painful and not without dangers. Her aunt urged Dilsoz. “Women are often the culprits. Many women don’t talk about it afterwards, even with their husbands.”
Female circumcision figures
Female circumcision is an operation on the external female genitalia without medical necessity. The procedure varies: from removing skin around the clitoris to removing the clitoris and sewing up the labia.
According to knowledge institute Pharos, it can cause physical, psychological and sexual problems in women. These include extreme pain, excessive blood loss, problems with the urinary tract, risk of infections and in some cases even death.
UNICEF estimates that around 200 million girls and children worldwide have been circumcised. The majority of the women come from Eritrea, Egypt, Somalia and Kurdish Iraq.
Genital mutilation, or female circumcision, has been banned in our country since 1993. Even if you have it done across the border from the Netherlands, you are punishable. Yet no one has ever been punished by a judge.
Minister Dennis Wiersma (Education) sees a major role for schools in countering what he calls ‘medieval situations’. He sent a letter to all primary and secondary schools this week, calling on teachers to be alert. And to pick up signals, such as a girl’s strange behavior or sudden absence. “We are jointly obliged to pay extra attention to these kinds of terrible situations.”
The minister also believes that schools should report cases and, if possible, file a report. Institutions such as the GGD and Safe at Home can help schools with this, he says. They can always go there for information.
With spring break just around the corner, the GGD also calls on people to be extra alert. “Parents are often pressured by family abroad to circumcise their daughters. That is why we issue special statements stating that this form of mutilation is punishable by law. In all kinds of languages so that the family abroad can also read it,” says Marike Front mill of the GGD.
Special circumcision trips
She is especially worried about the holiday season. “There are stories that special trips are offered where parents are in a resort and their daughter is being circumcised in the meantime.”
At the GGD they believe in providing information and having conversations with so-called key persons: people who are close to the cultures and who speak the language. Voormolen: “It may sound strange, but we see that there is a lot to be gained from women who have already been circumcised. By offering them the right care and informing them, we can prevent the tradition from being passed on.”
Dilsoz is such a key person and provides information about female circumcision in the Achterhoek. “I come to people’s homes and talk on special neighborhood evenings. You don’t immediately start talking about it, but you ask mothers about raising their daughter. You build conversations very quietly, inspire trust and ensure anonymity.”
Not an easy battle, but with a clear goal: “If I can only help one girl, then my mission will be successful.”