February 6, 2014

Adventists Join Others in Opposing Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

BY ANSEL OLIVER/ Adventist News Network

February 6 is
International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, and
Seventh-day Adventists are among the many faith groups, NGOs, and organizations
working to end the practice.

FGM/C, often referred to as Female Circumcision, is practiced in nearly 30
countries in Africa and Asia. Young girls are subjected to procedures that
intentionally alter or cause injury to their genital organs for non-medical
reasons, often as part of a coming-of-age cultural tradition or ceremony.

FGM/C is sometimes viewed as a status symbol and some practitioners say it
controls sexuality and promotes chastity. Its effects often include infection,
chronic pain, and infertility. The U.N. banned the practice in 2012. The World
Health Organization estimates that 140 million women are victims.

Waris DirieMany people, especially in western countries, are not aware of FGM/C and are
often shocked to learn about it. Seventh-day Adventists are opposed to the
practice, according to a document adopted by the Adventist
Church’s Christian View of Human Life Committee in 2000.

“Our Church should continue to seek loving ways to discourage this practice as
well as to educate of its dangers,” said Dr. Peter Landless, General Conference
Health Ministries Director. “It is our desire that young women may grow in the
natural way God created them.”

Landless urged respect for culture and sensitivity for those who are victims of
the procedure.

“It is very important that we do not inadvertently add insult to the injury of
this mutilating procedure by inferring such patients are irreversibly shamed,”
Landless said. “Such an attitude or approach may give them the feeling that
they are less than normal people. Plus, there are millions of women affected
and one needs to be concerned lest the issue becomes a face off of cultures,
rather than a compassionate concern for the well-being of women and their
status in their society.”

Heather-Dawn Small, General Conference Women’s Ministries Director, said her
department at the world headquarters and its affiliates in local communities
are continuing to bring awareness to the problem in order to end it.

“We’re doing what we can to help and heal our sisters who have suffered FGM/C
through setting up homes for the victims, reaching out to communities where the
practice is perpetrated on young girls to help stop this practice through

One country where the Adventist Church has worked to combat FGM is Kenya. The Kajiado Rescue Centre is a girls
rescue home and education facility that celebrates adolescence with an
alternative rite. “It is seen as a blessing by many families in many villages,”
said Denise Hochstrasser, Women’s Ministries director for the Adventist
Church’s Inter-European Division, which helps sponsor the project.

Already, Kenya’s government has worked to eradicate FGM/C. In 2001 the
Children’s Act criminalized the subjection of children to FGM/C, and the new
Constitution, which was approved in 2010, offers clauses meant to protect
children from any cultural practice that is harmful to their health.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency has also worked in Kenya with
anti-FGM/C projects over the years. One recent project helped educate more than
2,500 people about the issue by young girls performing songs and skits about FGM/C
to their families and government officials. The initiative capacitated 89 trainers
to work with community leaders in bringing awareness to the issue. The program
also helped support those who formerly performed FGM/C with other income
generating activities.

This year, ADRA is implementing a program called the Girl Child Empowerment
Program in Kenya’s western province of Nyanza. The project will offer a 10-week
skills course that includes healthy relationships and the dangers of FGM/C.

“Being a part of the church’s efforts in this global initiative to bring
awareness to this issue is just one of the many ways in which ADRA is committed
to empowering women and girls around the world,” said Jason Brooks, an ADRA
senior program manager.

Also, in Germany last year, the Berlin Adventist Hospital opened the Desert Flower Center,
an FGM/C reconstruction surgical center in partnership with supermodel Waris Dirie, one of the world’s most
prominent advocates against FGM/C.

“As always, the Adventist Church seeks to restore the image of the Creator and
to avoid adding grief and pain to those in suffering,” said Landless, the
church’s Health Ministries director.