A citizens' initiative on creating a law to specifically ban the excruciatingly brutal practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Finland is headed to the new parliament for consideration, national broadcaster Yle reported.
In total, the initiative has gathered 61,266 signatures since the beginning of last October, well surpassing the 50,000 signature mark needed for MPs to consider the topic.
The document will be handed to MPs by humanitarian advocacy group World Vision Finland's programme director Annette Gothóni and expert adviser Ujuni Ahmed, together with Jukka Kurttila, managing director of fashion textile firm Finlayson.
While the act of genital mutilation is already considered to be aggravated assault under Finnish law, activists are pushing for a more specific law to be in place.
“A separate law [on banning FGM] would be important for preventative work and changing the attitudes of parents [who consider carrying it out on their daughters]. If the practice was specifically forbidden by law, it would be easier for various authorities to discuss the matter before it actually happens,” Gothóni said.
According to Ujuni Ahmed, the problem is that parents who want their daughters cut don't consider the disfiguring mutilation to be assault.
“The current legislation is inadequate. A separate law is needed to protect girls,” Ahmed added.
However, even before receiving the citizens' initiative, the upcoming left-of-the-centre five-party government led by the Social Democrats is reportedly already making plans to specifically ban FGM via new legislation.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 200 million women and girls, mostly from Muslim countries, have undergone FGM. Over 3 million are facing this practice each year, the WHO reckons.
While previously mostly limited to Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Middle East, this practice has reached Europe with the recent decade's migrant waves. Late last year, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) estimated that over 10,000 women and girls living in Finland have already undergone this procedure, with another 3,000 being at risk.
So far, no criminal procedures regarding FGM have ever been tried in Finland. A 2017 report found several instances of girls being transported out of the country for FGM procedures.