July 1, 2012
Law tightened on female genital mutilationBy Susan Vogel-Misicka
A change to the Swiss penal code on female genital mutilation comes into force on Sunday which aims to prevent Swiss-based families from having their daughters circumcised, whether in Switzerland or abroad.
“Thanks to the new provision in our criminal law, mutilation of female genitals can be prosecuted and punished by a Swiss judge, even in cases where the offence has taken place abroad and even when not punishable under that country’s law,” Andrea Candrian, vice head of the Federal Justice Office’s international criminal law unit, told swissinfo.ch.
Under the new legislation, any person who carries out an act of mutilation can be held responsible and punished.
“In addition, persons who have assisted in such a crime or contributed in another way can be prosecuted as well. For example – if a girl’s family has organised a mutilation – then not only the circumciser but also the family members involved can be prosecuted,” Candrian explained.
While the goal is not to target instances of FGM carried out in other countries, the legislation should help deter parents from forcing their daughters to undergo the painful and debilitating procedure.
The degree of mutilation (see box at right) along with the personal circumstances of the perpetrators will determine the severity of the sentence, which could involve up to ten years in prison or substantial fines.
“The new article is a clear and unmistakable signal that Switzerland does not tolerate this violation of human rights. FGM is a violation of human rights and a severe violation of children’s rights, which explicitly guarantee the right of physical integrity,” Katrin Piazza, spokeswoman for the Swiss National Committee of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) told swissinfo.ch.
Yet some wonder whether all the fuss over FGM in Switzerland is simply a matter of activism.
“I called community representatives and interpreters from countries where FGM is practised. I asked if they had ever heard anything about FGM going on here and they all said ‘no’,” countered Abdul Abdurahman, a canton Aargau-based social worker and board member of Second@s Plus – an organisation that represents second- and third-generation foreigners.
“I asked them about the tradition of FGM, and they told me that they’d never do to their daughters what was done to them,” he told swissinfo.ch.
Abdurahman has also spoken with a number of men about the topic of FGM. “I asked whether they wanted a circumcised wife or not and they said, ‘No, it’s better for the sexuality in our marriage’. They don’t want a woman who is suffering.”