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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  March 10, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am EDT

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are considering an appeal. >> a lot of money is involved. >> i'm antonio mora, thank you for joining us. "inside story" is next. have a great night. hi, i'm lisa fletcher. female genital mutilation and cutting is illegal in the united states. safe. a travelling tradition is in place in africa and the middle east it's impacted half a million in the u.s. and more than 130 million women worldwide, it's a difficult topic, but an immigrant from gambia who endured it travels
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here to talk to me about it. that's tonight on "inside story". hi, i'm lisa fletcher, ray suarez is off tonight. throughout the month of march, al jazeera will report issues centering on women, a campaign we call a war against women. so much progress have been made, women around the world are not free or protected from gender bibias, discrimination and abuse, the victim of long-term cultural forms making them less valued than men and putting their focus in jeopardy. and that is the focus, a practice in the middle east, depriving women of powers over their bodies, f g.m., female genital
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mutilation, female circumcision or cutting. you may a heard of it. if you have, you know millions of young women and girls endure a painful medical unnecessary matter every year in somalia, kenya and other countries despite laws against it. it is populations shift about the globe, united states is home to a striking number of young women for whom f g.m. is a real fear. consider the numbers from the centers for disease control. while it is illegal, half the women living here have had genitals cut or sent to their home countries to have it done. that is three times higher than the last c.d.c. study of f g.m. in 1997. we'll talk about the difficult battle to combat f g.m., the violent circumstances under which it is done, and the as a result.
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we wanted to gain a better understanding of what female genital mutilation is. i welcome miriam, from gambia, now a student in texas. miriam had her genitals cut when she was 10 or 11. thank you for speaking to us. and a gin cological surgeon. was it hard for you to make the decision to come on the show and talk about this? >> it was a little hard. f g.m. is something we don't talk about publicly. where i come from, it's a taboo to mention the word. me. >> why is it taboo to mention it in a culture where pervasive? >> for my perspective, they hate putting the fear in people. if i know someone talking about it, and what is happening to me, if i know i was supposed to go,
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to prevent it. >> what were you told about f g.m. as a young girl. >> like i said, we don't discus it, so i was - i didn't know what f g.m. was, until when it was later done to me. >> so the day that it happened, take us back to what you remember about the moment. you hadn't been told what would happen, what were you told. >> i was told i was visiting my grandmother. i went with my mum to my grandmother's house. it was the summer holidays, i thought i was there for the summer vacation. little did i know this was planned for me. when i got there i saw there were people in operation of something, but i didn't know what it was. i asked mum what was going on, she brushed it off and said it's a little celebration, and i have nothing to worry about. and that was that. >> and then the process began. you must have been terrified. >> not really, until i knew what
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was about to happen to me. first what they did was beat us and put us in cultural attire. so to me, being 10 years old then, i thought it was something fancy, until we were taken inside a small room, and the first girl was called inside. then we saw her screaming, and she was being carried out by elderly women, that's when we knew something was about to happen to us. struggled. >> i was about the last person that went into the room, that the circumcision was done. i got into the room, i was blindfolded. before i was blindfolded i could see the razor blades and the knife to be used on me, and i saw the lady washing blood from another female or another girl that came before me. when i was blindfolded i was
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held and during the struggling i was lifted in the air. two ladies held my feet and two my arms, and it was done. >> dr bawers, this is about more than the elimination of sexual pleasure, there are health risks, psychological trauma - can you talk about those things. >> exactly, there's not just the physical consequence, but the psychological. these victims - experiences are foremost of post-traumatic stress disorder, where the memory or even the association of any contact in the genital area is associated with flash backs and recollections of the pain and the difficult circumstances of that procedure. >> so i know that these women are seeking you out. you have literally made a name
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for yourself in making it part of your mission as a medical doctor to help the women. when they come to you. are you treating them as victims of violence? lens? >> we see this as a human rights guileation. guileation. -- violation. it's my opinion that the sense of sexual expression, sexual feeling should be one of the basic human senses. and that if we look at this as we do vision or the sense of taste or hearing, imagine if our little girls were having that taken from them at that age. this is the consequence that f g.m. holds, in my opinion. >> miriam, i read accounts of many women who have been through f g.m., they feel fear and humiliation. they are afraid to go to the doctor.
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gynaecologist. >> yes, because i didn't expect a gynaecologist to know and i felt like having to go there, and explain what happened to me, or something that i wasn't ready to do. and i felt strange. i felt different from other females, and it was one of the things that prevented me from sticking a gynaecologists health. it's not just me, it's other females that go through the same thing. i know people that have gone through humiliating experiences during their visit to the gynecologist or o.b.g.y.n., because some of these doctors never saw a female circumcised before. and some are ridiculed. they'll see the doctors call in nurses to look at the genital area, which is really embarrassing.
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>> dr bawers, as immigration rises, more doctors and medical professionals will be exposed to this. is the medical community in the united states prepared to deal with patient like miriam physically and psychologically? >> we have an excellent medical system in the u.s. there's a lot of empathy from the doctors for this problem. the main problem we have in being prepared is that we don't realise that there are answers for people that do have consequences of f g.m. and so surgical treatments are available that can help to undo some of the damage. but also i think sometimes doctors look past this, taking a passive attitude forwards f g.m., saying there's a shrug of pity, and sadness for the individual, but there's no affirmation, there's no -
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there's no hope given to the women. so that is something i hope changes, and programs like this can do a lot to make it clear that this is something that the medical system here needs to address. >> later in the show you'll come back and we'll talk about what you are doing to help. we'll take a quick break now. when we come back, the difficult conversation conditions, and you'll meet a woman dedicated to meeting her life exposing the fear that keeps women prisoner to what most see as a barbaric practice. stay with us, you are watching "inside story".
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story" on al jazeera, i'm lisa fletcher. . >> joining us is an author and. procedure. it's done without anaesthetic. the rest are emotionally scarred for life. we are talking about 130-some million women, why is this happening? >> it's a deeply rooted cultural practice that people in the west don't realise that it goes deeper than just as miriam indicated earlier. it goes deeper than just doing - performing female circumcision on the girl. it is a secret society in tern
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parts of africa. for instance, where i come from originally it is - it's the whole f g.m. process, it is run by a society, a secret society. it's a woman's society. and they take the girls into the bush. and perform f g.m. on them. no outsider is allowed in the bush while they are doing it. >> okay. hang on, this is probably shocking to a lot of people, it's shocking to me. women are the ones taking the girls into the bush, women are the ones performing the procedure. presumably they have had it done to themselves. why are they perpetuating it? >> because it's a culture, a tradition. mary mentioned it was had gram and mother -- grandmother and mother. normally it's the grand aunt.
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>> does anyone come out the other end saying that was a great idea. i'm glad it happened to me 20-30 years ago? >> no, no one has come out and said that. the female elders in the village mother and grandmother, so i want it done to my daughter, because it's a tradition. >> so it's a tradition among the winners. it keeps you pure, present you from feeling pleasure. what is this about? >> men in africa, before islam were. i feel islam has nothing to do with f g.m. men have up to four whifs. altogether.
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i think it lessens a woman's pleasure in sexual activities. your husband doesn't have to worry about test mying. personally, it's about dom in addition. >> you wrote a book, what did the men in liberia say? >> men in liberia believe that a woman's body is for reproductive purpose, and not sexual enjoy: she's not supposed to enjoy it. the man is supposed to enjoy sex, and not the woman. so f g.m. came to play where they remove what makes her enjoy it. remove what makes her have the urge or the sensation, and that is the clitoris and the labia. >> the message is it takes away the urge, but it doesn't take
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away the urge. >> no, people that are circumcised have children out of wedlock. it means what they are preventing them from, is what they are doing. that mentality that it lessens the urge to have sex. ta may, but not to 100% level. >> you talked about the big numbers, focussing on 29 african and middle eastern countries. when you talk about female genital mutilation, you think of it as a problem. but you here 500,000 in the u.s. it is. now. it's no longer where - the case where americans could say it happens to girls in far away lands. it happens here. and to american citizens, because those girls were born here. it makes them american citizens, and when they are removed from u.s. soil, and taken to the country of origin of their
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parent to have it done to them. it is illegal. and i'm elated that the u.s. government has now made it illegal, and you face a 5-year term of imprisonment. >> we should clarify this. it was made in 1996, a loophole was closed last week, which banned vacation cutting, which happened to you. you were lying in the u.s. and taken back to your country. >> i was back home then. it was about to happen to me. >> explain that. it's - that's a come story. knowing what awaits me, the authorities, luckily i was able to contact a lady, and he
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contacted human rights, she fought for my case and i won. >> so you were protected in your visa here was extended. >> it's to familiar, it happens to numerous of girls. their visa expired and they face going back to face what he had to face. they cut you when you are at an early age, and then when you are ready to get married, they want to cut you again. am i right. that is what she was avoiding. that happened to a lot of women. that's why a lot of women here seek human rights protection. >> when we come back we'll be rejoined. the fires gynecologist to perform female genital mutilation reversal procedures, we'll get her take on what is happening to bring f g.m.
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welcome back to "inside story". i'm lisa fletcher. on this edition of the show we
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are talking about female genital mutilation. here are some anything fact. the world health organisation under lines that the procedure has no health benefits. it is mostly carried out on young girls in infancy and age of 15. the w.h.o. says it's a violation of the human right of girls and women. i still have my guests and we are rejoined by dr marcy bawers. all of you are here because you are not only familiar with the topic because you are moving it from white house. how do you change something that is so deeply culturally engrained, miriam? >> i think what we are doing now, advocating. it is important. advocating, letting people know that the practice has no health benefits. it only has this - this disadvantage to the human body. i feel like just because we say it into law does not make it illegal, you know.
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we have to stand up and say anyone that does this will be arrested and prosecuted. countries are doing it, but females are being circumsised and nothing is being done. if they set an example with someone, people will take it into consideration and stop the factor and eradicate it. you were invited by the white house to give your recommendation on female genital mute liesation, what did you tell them? >> we told that that just like they treat other sexual assaults which are gender based on women and girls, we wanted the same thing. we wanted to have public service announcements on it was about female genital mute liesition, educationing the public, we wanted, as miriam pointed out. we wanted to have law
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enforcement prepared to take the parents to task and have them arrested if they are caught taking their children across the border or across the atlantic to have them. >> dr bawers, angela mentioned educateing thepublic, and you are educating the medical group. 74% of mutilations ever done by doctors, it has been reported. how does that stop when doctors are doing the procedures and, by default, justify it. >> right, if they are complicit in the practice of f g.m. they are as bad as the original process, even if done with annes nettics. people justify that if anaesthetic is given, somehow it
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cultural practice. these laws and these rules need to be enforced. >> you are one of the leaders in female genital reconstruction. this is knew, you are doing it in the u.s., you were doing it in burkina faso. talk about how you were doing that, and how it's been received. >> correct, i was fortunate to be contacted by an international relief organization called cliter-aid, and asked if i was train in paris with dr peter faulis who has down nearly 4,000 reconstructions. it's important to realise a couple of myths of female mutilation, one is that the clitoris is fully removed. that's not true. to the damage of f g.m. is the covering and the obscuring of
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the cliterous so that if a - if a surgeon can uncover that and bring it closer to the service there's a lot of er-otto genic materials there. in this procedure we can reconstruct a sensitive functional cliterous. so that was the work that i set out to do in 2007 when i trained with the doctor. we brought it here to the u.s. the problem with it being in the u.s., even if we don't charge for the procedure, but the problem is getting the women that are eligible to have it reversed here. most of the women in africa, where the majority are, of course have numbers with as little as $50 per year, and they are never going to fly to the u.s. we go to africa, and we picked
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burkina faso, where we built a hospital to offer these services to women of africa. that is ongoing. we have done, of course, a number in the clinic in san angela. talk a bit about the role of men in stopping f g.m. we talk about the role they are playing, because they perpetuate it. a number of activist groups are targetting the message to men. now that you know, you have to say no. >> yes. that is what - my organization is doing. we are educating not only the women, or the little girls, but we are educating the boys, wanting to get to them as well. they are the future men, and they will be making those decisions as well when they grow up. we believe that if you get to the young children, that's how you will - that's the quickest way - that is the surest way to eradicate it.
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>> it's interesting because you talk to kids. or what we were talking about at the top of the show that this is taboo. you have no idea what will happen to you. how do you penetrate that. you need to go into it schools. we have already - i had a 26th in richmond with the virginia education. and we planned to propose to them that they give us access to the schools in virginia in the state of virginia. we will start with virginia, and hopefully branch off to maryland, and the distribute and other states in the west. and teach the children, girls and boys, and not only the immigrant children, but children of immigrant parents. children of u.s. parents as well. u.s. want parents, we want them to know what their friends, their best friends in schools are doing. >> you are by no means a fully
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fledged activist. that is probably the first time on television. you barely told it up until now. incredibly courageous for you to do so. do you see yourself as a voice for others. >> yes, i see myself as a voice for others that do not have the opportunity to sit here and tell their story. people have to know that female genital mutilation are male things. male circumcision has a benefit to the man. there's a reason it's not called female circumcision and is referred to as multlation. circumcision. >> thank you to all of our guests, for your brave voice, and thank you for joining us. get in touch with us on twitter, and
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>> the path to peace - columbia's government says it will hold air strikes against f.a.r.c. rebels for a month. hello, welcome to al jazeera, live from our headquarters in doha. i'm elizabeth puranam. also ahead. iraqi forces say they are only a few kilometres from the city of tikrit as they continue to try to retake territory from i.s.i.l. former secretary of state hillary clinton admits using her personal email account to conduct officia

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