A citizens' initiative on creating a law to specifically ban the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Finland is headed to the new Parliament for consideration by MPs. The initiative garnered a total of 61,266 signatures by the beginning of last October, but already reached the required 50,000 signature mark a few months earlier.
The document will be handed to MPs by humanitarian advocacy group World Vision Finland's programme director Annette Gothóni and expert advisor Ujuni Ahmed, as well as the managing director of fashion textile firm Finlayson, Jukka Kurttila.
According to Finnish law, the act of genital mutilation is already considered to be aggravated assault. But Gothóni said a more specific law should be created.
"A separate law [on banning FGM] would be important for preventative work and changing the attitudes of parents [who might be considering carrying it out on their girls]. If the practice was specifically forbidden by law, it would be easier for various authorities to discuss the matter [with parents] before it happens," Gothóni said.
"The problem is that parents who cut their girls do not consider the mutilation to be assault. The current legislation is inadequate. A separate law is needed to protect girls," Ahmed added.
FGM still common
An estimated 200 million girls and women around the world have undergone FGM, with more than three million girls facing the practice every year, according to the World Health Organisation.
Late last year, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) estimated as many as 3,000 girls in Finland faced the risk of being subjected to FGM. The public health watchdog estimated more than 10,000 girls and women resident in Finland have already undergone the procedure.
Even before receiving the citizens' initiative on the matter, the incoming government is reportedly already making plans to ban FGM in new legislation.