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The Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation (CAGeM) invites you to attend a conference on Saturday June 16, 2012 from 9am-6pm, at the New York Academy of Medicine (1216 Fifth Avenue).

FGM is an unacceptable non-medical practice that serves to preserve a female’s innocence or purity by altering the biological exterior of her genitals.  There are an estimated 100 to 160 million girls and women worldwide currently living with the consequences of the painful and traumatic procedure, and it is practiced approximately every 16 seconds.

In CAGeM’s full commitment towards stopping the clock and eradicating the practice of FGM globally, the conference on the 16th of June serves to inform the public of this atrocious procedure by providing various perspectives on the impact of FGM. Nana Sylla, a high school senior, is the driving force behind the conference, showcasing CAGeM’s mission of linking grassroots activism to inform the community about FGM. Speakers at the event will include human rights experts, physicians, legal professionals, religious scholars, and victims themselves. The conference aims to form a dialogue between communities and panelists in order to make the efforts toward eradicating this inhumanity a priority. Aside from panel discussions, there will also be a live Off-Broadway performance on FGM, with the use of theatrical pieces and films to inform viewers.

While, the largest proportion of girls and women who have undergone FGM are in Africa, we should not neglect the practices right here at home. Although the United States outlawed FGM in 1997, migrant communities continue to practice, with the second largest population in New York state. Survivors have provided testimonies of the practice occurring in the back of a barbershop in New York City, a least suspecting location. The conference’s setting in New York City on the 16th is an attempt to raise awareness and begin a dialogue to eliminate all FGM procedures. A 2010 proposal to the Supreme Court to outlaw transportation out of the country momentarily in order to have the practice done abroad is currently pending. This means that while it is illegal to practice it in this country, it is legal to take an American-born girl overseas for the procedure.

Most recently, FGM has been in the news regarding the launching of an anti-FGM campaign in the United Kingdom. An estimated 500 girls are taken out of the UK each year to get the procedure done elsewhere, and 2,000 girls in Bristol are thought to be at risk. In Kenya, laws banning FGM are failing to protect women, even though it is punishable by imprisonment and a fine.

It is important to restate that the practice is not medical in nature and therefore carries no medical benefits. Children born to mothers who have undergone the practice suffer high rates of neonatal death than compared to women who had not undergone the practice. Women themselves may have recurrent bladder infections, cysts, infertility, painful urination from the wound, and septicaemia (sepsis, a blood infection). Some may even die shortly after the procedure from hemorrhaging, sepsis, and shock. The procedure does not use anesthesia. Tools are used on more than one girl, therefore increasing the risk of  the transmission of HIV.

The practice of FGM is a gross violation and an infringement of human rights, including the lack of informed consent of the child or young adolescent, the right to be free from gender discrimination, the right to life and physical integrity, the right to health, and the right to be free from torture.

Come out to the conference on June 16, 2012 from 9am-6pm, at the New York Academy of Medicine (1216 Fifth Avenue). Listen to the voices of survivors, and together let us become the voice that speaks for those who cannot. Help us make sure that our message is not falling on deaf ears.

Register here.

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Buckle-up! Today, we are going to Sub-Saharan Africa!

For over 50 years, children in the Sub-Saharan area, particularly in Uganda and Sudan.  The reason behind this lack of information is because it affects a population that is often overlooked–the poor that is.  There are no efforts being made to help rid children of this disease because many people cannot afford any medical relief.  If there is no profit to be made does that mean that pharmaceutical companies should not even try to create a solution that affects so many children?

An article in the Huffington Post identifies that there is a lack of Vitamin B in community members of these Sub-Saharan regions.  Providing vitamin B supplements to children in this region ages 5-15 whom are most affected by this disease should be urged.  Even though the disease is not discussed much, does not mean that is not harmful. Children with this disease, are prone to accidents such as drowning and burning because of mental impairment.

My question to you all is: should diseases that affect the poor not be discussed and not receive a treatment?

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Female genital mutilation (FGM), or female circumcision, is a common practice in regions of Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. FGM usually involves the full or partial removal of the clitoris and/or labia or other injury to a young girl’s genital area for non-medical reasons. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 92 million girls 10 years old and up have undergone FGM, most of them having it performed sometime between infant age and 15 years old.

Globally, an estimated 140 million women and girls are living with the severe consequences of the procedure, which include excessive bleeding, infertility, sepsis, cysts, painful intercourse, increased newborn mortality, emotional pain, etc. There are no health benefits to these procedures. FGM is maintained by some cultures as an effective means of controlling female sexuality and taming female libido.

In 2008, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to end FGM practices worldwide, and several African nations have since banned the practice. Uganda placed a ban on FGM in 2009 and Egypt outlawed the procedure in 2008 but despite such efforts to curb the act, there is widespread lack of compliance with these laws; laws which inadvertently lead to more frequent and more dangerous acts of FGM. For example, in Egypt, where approximately 90% of the women have been victims of FGM, the ban has proved highly ineffective and is actually resulting in a higher mortality rate since parents are reluctant to take their post-FGM daughters to hospitals to treat heavy bleeding and infections, for fear of being reported and imprisoned. Equally disturbing: according to WHO, nearly 20% of all FGM procedures are performed by health professionals in clinical settings.Though this may ensure a safer and more hygienic procedure, it is unsettling to think that doctors find such procedures morally acceptable.

FGM is not just a problem in the developing world; according to Amnesty International, there are approximately 500,000 women living with effects of FGM in Europe and 180,000 more women at risk each year. In support of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on February 6, 2012, the Amnesty International European campaign against FGM created a video in order to raise awareness:

The campaign also provides a strategy for ending FGM in Europe:

  1. Collection of data on prevalence of FGM in Europe
  2. Accessible and appropriate healthcare for women living with FGM in Europe
  3. Better protection mechanisms to address violence against women and children
  4. Clear asylum guidelines for those under threat of FGM, and
  5. Mainstreaming of FGM in EU’s dialogues on cooperation with third countries where FGM is prevalent.

On Tuesday The Supreme Court heard opening arguments in a case that, at it’s resolution, will set a strong precedent regarding corporate liability for civil suits brought by foreign nationals for human rights violations committed abroad.

The case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, involves a civil suit filed by 12 Nigerian Plaintiffs who allege that Royal Dutch Petroleum, a.k.a. Shell, “aided and abetted, and were otherwise complicit in, violations of international law;” specifically that the corporation “collaborated closely with Nigeria’s then-military government as it carried out a campaign of intimidation and violence” against the Ogoni people who opposed the development of their land for oil. At this stage the suit, filed under the umbrella of the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, is immediately concerned with whether foreign nationals have any right to try such claims through the United States Judicial System at all.

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I appropriately ran into this article after reading the Mann et al. paper on “Health and Human Rights,” which largely discusses discrimination against people with HIV and its direct infringement on the universal principles of human rights:

A South African journalist working for Al-Jazeera was recently dismissed from his job and then detained and deported from Qatar after he was found to be HIV-positive. The journalist is now attempting to take this case against Qatar to the International Labour Organization for violating international labor conventions. According to the 1958 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, which Qatar has signed, states must enact legislation that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, nationality, or religious or political beliefs. Although this declaration does not refer directly to HIV-status discrimination, it can be interpreted to include it. This claim is now being argued by human rights advocates from the South African human rights organization Section 27, who has lobbied to press charges against Qatar and countries with similar discriminatory policies.

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