Swedish court rules FGM investigation to be "discriminatory"

The confirmation of a court ruling against the Uppsala municipality / Sweden last week, has prompted a discussion about the possibilities of social services and the police to investigate FGM cases in Sweden. In April 2010, the municipality of Uppsala had been found guilty of discrimination and had to pay a fine of 6.000 € after having forced a 10-year old girl to undergo a gynecological examination against the will of her parents.

In 2004, the then 9-year old had travelled to Kenya with her parents, who are of Somali descent. Upon her return, social workers feared that the girl may have been genitally mutilated during this trip. The parents of the girl denied having subjected their daughter to FGM and refused a gynecological examination on the girl. Social services informed the police, who enforced the examination which showed that the girl had not been mutilated.

The family filed a complaint with the ombudsman for anti-discrimination, who decided that the decision to examine the girl was based solely on the ethnic background of the family, making it discriminatory. The attorney of the municipality criticized the ruling, arguing that it would discourage other municipalities from investigating cases of FGM, but the ruling was confirmed by a court last week. T he case provoked a discussion on the question whether anti-discrimination laws, while important, may in fact protect those who do continue to practice FGM in Europe by making it almost impossible to investigate presumed cases of FGM.

"As an African immigrant, I know what racism means. But I also know what FGM is and means. We must not mix up discrimination and crime. Working with the social services and the authorities means helping them protect your daughters. They mean well, it should not be taken or looked at as discrimination. Let’s all work together to make sure that these girls are really safe and well. There cannot be laws that protect those who commit such crimes because that will give them the chance to continue practicing FGM." Waris Dirie

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