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Fatma Naib: Spread awareness about FGM before making it illegal

Fatma Naib: Spread awareness about FGM before making it illegal

Fresh off her week-old prestigious Peabody award win for her documentary on the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Somalia and Kenya, Stockholm-based journalist Fatma Naib, 41, tells mid-day that India needs to have a bigger plan in place to stop the practice here, as simply making it illegal won’t help eradicate the problem.

Naib’s award-winning film for the Al-Jazeera media network is called ‘The Cut: Exploring FGM,’ a 48-minute documentary that traces Naib’s journey to explore the traditions and controversies around FGM, for which she travelled to Somalia and Kenya.

Speaking about what drew her to the issue, Naib said, “I wanted to look at the practice from within – that was at the heart of my pitch. I believe that no parent would internally harm their children-so then what were their reasons behind subjecting their children to FGM?”

Need a bigger plan

Given the current FGM battle that rages on in the country, Naib pointed out that ‘the Indian government should learn from the lessons of other countries.’ “In most countries, the practice was made illegal almost immediately, but maybe that is where they went wrong. Tackling FGM needs to be part of a bigger plan. 
You need to start at the grassroots, educate, spread awareness and work directly with the communities. Instead of making it illegal, deal with spreading awareness first,” said Naib.

“In India, it sounds like this is at a critical stage. Make the practice illegal, definitely, but start with a bigger plan. Making FGM illegal without engaging the community about the law, will render it ineffective. In most such cases [where FGM is illegally practiced] it is very difficult to prove that something has actually been done, which in turn makes it difficult to hold people accountable within the law. Also, no child is going to contest their parent, and therefore by making the practice illegal, it will still go on, but it will become more underground – making it harder to track,” she said.

Still sinking in

As for the Peabody she won last week, Naib said the joy is still sinking in, adding that none of this would have been possible without her team at Al Jazeera, all the contributors from Somalia, Kenya and Sweden, and “my mother who gracefully opened up about a sensitive topic in front of millions of viewers.”

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