Statement made on 09 June 2011 by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about the gross human rights violation that continues to victimize women and girls in Canada and abroad.
Throughout history, roughly 114 million women and girls have undergone some form of female genital mutilation. This procedure is practised in 27 countries in Africa, 7 countries in the Middle East, as well as in several parts of Malaysia, India and Indonesia. Although many people are quick to dismiss this practice as an African issue or perhaps even an immigrant issue, female genital mutilation is in fact very much a Canadian issue and is one that demands our immediate attention.
The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women claims that between 1986 and 1991, approximately 40,000 women who had arrived in Canada had been subjected to some form of female genital cutting. This does not include the thousands of women who arrived in Canada from Somalia after 1991, as statistics indicate that many of these women were also victims of female genital mutilation.
Honourable senators, as a woman who sought refuge in Canada, I am extremely grateful for the warm welcome that was extended to me by the Canadian government as well as the Canadian people. I am well aware of how fortunate I am to be able to call a country as great as Canada my home. However, I am also aware of the several obstacles that many newly arrived immigrants face in their day-to-day lives.
Although the federal government, through the implementation of Bill C-27, has made the practice of female genital mutilation a criminal offence that is punishable by law, that is simply not enough. We need to ensure that women who have immigrated to Canada having already experienced some form of genital cutting are provided with appropriate health and natal care.
In addition, we must ensure that these women are educated about the laws surrounding the practice and also the health complications that accompany it. By doing so, not only will we be making sure that the women who have already been victimized receive a standard of health care consistent with that which has been granted to all Canadians, we will also be ensuring that these women do not subject their daughters to this practice.
Honourable senators, I urge you all to recognize that the practice of female genital mutilation is in fact a Canadian issue. We must also remain mindful that it is the practice of female genital mutilation we wish to condemn, not those women who have already been victimized by it.