Bruno Kreisky Foundation

for Human Rights

Kreisky Prize winner: fight for women's rights "not yet won"

APA Mon, Jun 10, 2013

Due to the commitment of Kreisky Human Rights Prize winner Gebre, female genital mutilation in Ethiopia is almost non-existent

Vienna (APA) - The Ethiopian women's rights activist Bogaletch Gebre will be honored this Monday evening with the Bruno Kreisky Human Rights Prize for her efforts in the fight against female genital mutilation in her home country. "We are making progress," she told APA, referring to the global and Ethiopian women's rights situation. "But we haven't won the fight yet." Thanks to her commitment and the work of her group "Kembatti Mentti Gezzimma" (KMG), the number of victims of genital mutilation was reduced to almost zero, according to a study by the UN children's fund UNICEF in 2008 will.
The group began its work in 2000 and aimed to raise awareness and awareness-raising about the risks of the procedure for the affected girls within rural and urban communities. "We engaged in long discussions and reflection processes with the groups," said Gebre. It is important at work that both men and women of all ages are involved in the process. “In addition to that, we also had two people present at the talks who provided basic facts on the topic. For example, that neither the Bible nor the Koran says anything about genital cutting, what risks circumcision entails for girls and that many have already died from it.” In Ethiopia, the common method was cutting away the clitoris and the inner and outer labia.
"We allowed the groups to have a week-long discussion process until they came to the conclusion that this practice had to be stopped," explained Gebre. A 14-year-old girl once said that her parents protected her and were concerned about her health. "You mustn't do me any harm," she is said to have said. "If they hurt me, then that's a culture of killing." According to Gebre, however, genital cutting is neither an Ethiopian nor an African tradition. "I don't know where the phenomenon comes from," she said. It is obvious that it serves to control women in a patriarchal system and to make them compliant and to rob them of their sexual desire.
Gebre criticized that there was a big misunderstanding in the so-called West that mothers wanted to harm their daughters. "No mother in the world wants to hurt her daughter. They just think it's their duty or that their religion requires it of them,” she explained. Traditionally, circumcision is often seen as preparation for a wedding.
The first major success was achieved just two years after the organization started its activities: a young couple decided to get married. "She was uncircumcised and the two celebrated their wedding in public," said Gebre happily. "A total of 3,000 guests came and the religious leaders blessed the marriage in front of everyone." This led to a kind of competition in the neighborhood: "Suddenly everyone wanted to marry an uncircumcised woman," says the award winner.
"I don't know if I won the fight. We're seeing successes in the communities," Gebre said. "But in addition to circumcision, there are numerous areas in which women's rights are violated." The work is only done when women have the same rights and freedoms and the same values as men. "I hope that one day violence against women in the name of tradition will stop," said Gebre. Every culture that violates human rights is a system that should no longer be accepted in the 21st century.
(The interview was conducted by Mona El Khalaf/APA)