Research has demonstrated that healthcare professionals and cultural mediators in the Netherlands lack knowledge about the legal aspects of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). Most know it is an illegal practice, but don’t know other important aspects, like when (and when not) to report it, how to do so, who is punishable, and what the prison sentences are. Safe at Home, Federation of Somali Associations in the Netherlands, and Pharos NL invited Dr. Annemarie Middelburg to impart a training about the criminalization of FGM/C in the Netherlands.
Due to COVID 19 regulations, this was an online event, recorded and live-streamed from the Amsterdam Public Library (OBA.) Most participants didn’t have enough background knowledge about the topic, so the training began with a brief introductory session about the main aspects of FGM/C:
the different types, its consequences, the highest-prevalence countries and the many beliefs associated with this practice. Dr. Annemarie underlined that the Netherlands has a zero-tolerance approach to the practice; all types and forms are prohibited.
The Law in The Netherlands
Although the Dutch Penal Code does not have a specific provision for FGM/C, it falls under the general crime of mistreatment. In the second part of the training, Dr. Annemarie addressed the concepts of "co-perpetration" and being an "accessory to the crime," how "trying to perform" and "preparing FGM/C" are considered criminal actions, the relevance of consent, and the victim's age to penalization, and the applicable punishments. At the end of this part, the participants were tested with a short quiz.
The event was finalized with a panel discussion with Abdikarim Mohamud, a Somalian advocate against FGM/C in The Netherlands. He emphasized that this shouldn’t be seen as a female issue, and men should take the initiative to help end the practice. The event was a success! The attendance was 200 participants plus a few hundred additional people who watched the recordings. Many questions were asked via chat during the live sessions, making it lively and interactive.