Norway: Gov't plan against female circumcision

The Norwegian government presented its plan today to fight female circumcision. The plan includes confiscating or refusing to issue passports to parents or children when there's a suspicion a child will be circumcised. In such cases, the authorities will also be able to prevent families from leaving Norway.

In June last year, after NRK revealed that Norwegian-African girls are send to their homeland to be circumcised, the government presented a list of emergency measures. Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen, Minister of Children and Equality Affairs, says there is no reason to believe it doesn't happen in Norway, as long as people come from countries where female circumcision is common.

The plan deals with six areas: effective maintaining of law, increased competence and knowledge, prevention and attitude change, accessible health care, intensified seasonal effort and increased international effort

The Institute for Social Research (Institutt for samfunnsforskning) is meanwhile working on documenting the extent and number of female circumcision cases in Norway and among girls living in Norway.

Once they know more, the government will decide about an obligatory examination of young girls to prevent female circumcision. This option is very much disputed in the immigrant community. Ramin-Osmundsen says that first they need to increase competence and coordination among public employees and then they'll get back to this issue.

Both Health Minister Sylvia Brustad and Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen stress that female circumcision is not only illegal but is both a physical and mental attack against the girls involved.

Brustad says it's very important that health personnel both observe and report and in this way actively help in prevention. There must be more openness on this issue and reporting it is more important than professional confidentiality. If there's a suspicion of female circumcision - people are obligated to report it.

According to the plan, all health professional will be involved in preventing female circumcision. Minority communities will also be involved.

The government is increasing its contribution to the task by 18 million kroner. Norway supports the efforts against female circumcision in 17 countries and grants 42 million kroner to the task. Håkon Gulbrandsen, state secretary in the foreign ministry, says Norway grants money to the UN, Save the Children and Norwegian Church Aid for their work against female circumcision.

Female circumcision is often done by close family and at a very young age and it is very difficult for girls to report it in time. Astri Aas-Hansen, state secretary in the Justice ministry, says that they're also looking at changing statute of limitations for female circumcision so that it starts only when a girl turns 18.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

See also: Gov't plan site (Norwegian)

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