From: Nashi Brooker
Comment: Why Albania Should Join Montenegro and Kosovo to Ban Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genital organs are injured or changes with no medical reason or necessity.

It is frequently a traumatic and violent act for the victim and can cause harm in many ways. It can result in severe bleeding, pain, shock, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and even infertility. It also significantly lowers the feelings of pleasure experienced during sex. The practice can cause immediate and/or long-term health consequences, including mental health problems or difficulties in childbirth, causing danger to the child and mother and/or death.

A UNICEF report published in August 2016 said that at least 200 million women and girls alive today have suffered been subjected to the operation in 30 countries, mainly in Africa. The UNICEF report does not say that such operations have been carried out in any of the Balkan countries. However, current migration trends and a large number of refugees coming to Europe from African and Asian countries where this harmful tradition is still maintained may lead to the fact that this form of violence against women could be diverted to Albania.

Available data from large-scale representative surveys show that the practice of FGM is highly concentrated in a swath of countries from the Atlantic coast to the Horn of Africa, in areas of the Middle East such as Iraq and Yemen and in some countries in Asia like Indonesia, with wide variations in prevalence. The practise is almost universal in Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti, with levels around 90 per cent, while it affects only 1 per cent of girls and women in Cameroon and Uganda.

It is estimated, however, that hundreds of thousands of women living in Europe have been subjected to genital mutilation and thousands more girls are at risk. Most women and girls originating from countries in which the practice of FGM is widespread live in the following EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden.

It is noted that Russia with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, FGM has become more common in mostly Muslim regions of the North Caucasus. The UN has called for its eradication because is FGM is against Human Rights, for example only last year June 2019, a girl from Dagestan was circumcised twice. Here is what Activists Call For Investigation Into Case Of Female Genital Mutilation reports:

“The girl screamed and struggled but was held down by medical staff and her stepmother when female genital mutilation was performed on her at a medical clinic in June 2019 in Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, a region in Russia’s North Caucasus”.

Great efforts have been made by the Albanian current government to combat gender violence. Thus, the revision of the penal code is required for Albania to comply with the new Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Family Violence – known as the Istanbul Convention, which is the first legally binding international mechanism in Europe aimed at dealing with violence against women and domestic violence. This is what IC requires for each state which is a party to it:

The Istanbul Convention requires states parties to fully commit to the prevention of gender-based violence against women (Article 12), including the prevention of FGM”.

As it is to today Albanian penal code provides no protection for young girls threatened by this practice. In fact, if the results of this practice were to be certified by a doctor, it would most likely be categorised as having caused Grievous Bodily Harm. This what the Albanian Penal Code, Article 88/a, says about serious wounding under the conditions of strong psychic distress:

“Serious wounding, committed under the conditions of momentary strong psychic distress, caused by the victim’s violence or serious insult, shall be punished up to five years imprisonment”.

Only next door to Albania in Greece, it is estimated that 25 % to 42 % of girls are at risk of female genital mutilation FGM, out of a total population of 1787 girls aged 0-18 originating from countries where female genital mutilation is practised.

Girls at risk of female genital mutilation in Greece mostly originate from Egypt, Ethiopia and Nigeria. These findings are from the latest research conducted by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) on FGM in the EU.

Looking at the world map Albania appears as a country with no data available. However, we must think of Albania, is a country where the number of refugees which travel from Greece or Montenegro is on the rise. Even though there is no data collected amongst the refugees, Albanian emigration staff, and people who look after them will find it difficult to trace such practice takes place within their community.

Exit approached the Head of the EU Delegation Luigi Soreca at the end of 2019. His response was to start campaigning against this practice even though FGM is not common in Albania.

Exit also contacted a prosecuting lawyer to find out how what would be the prosecution charge of FGM, she confirmed that FGM is unregulated in Albania because it is not a common practice, but it would be prosecuted under the general provisions of the Penal Code.

It is noted that there is barely anything on the Albanian Health Ministry’s site indicating a challenge to FGM. We have tried to reach lawyers, and parliamentarians to gain their commitment to start this imperative campaign, but all remain silent.

By ratifying the convention, Albania is obliged to make a commitment to change its laws, to introduce practical measures and provide resources for the effective prevention of violence against women and domestic violence.

The Istanbul Convention is the best practice to fight this harmful practice, and Albania has a duty to make efforts to raise awareness and enhance the skills of health professionals and emigration officers supporting women and girls affected by FGM.

There must be training sessions arranged to take a gender-sensitive approach to FGM, looking at the practice as a socio-cultural norm that constitutes a violation of women’s and girls’ fundamental human rights. It must also look at the practice’s harmful effects on girls and women, physical, psychological, reproductive and sexual health. A range of training courses must provide guidance for health professionals, and emigration staff with an understanding of the practice in the context of refugees, complying with the legal framework in the EU.