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Minister for Children and Gender Equality Karita Bekkemelem believes openness and public debate are of great importance for the fight against genital mutilation.


The government has announced a stronger effort against genital mutilation this summer, but you still do not want to go into forced health check, why not?

- There are different views here and the question has not yet been addressed by the Government. However, the government has announced that this is one of the issues we will now consider. Regardless of what one might think about health examinations, there is broad agreement on a number of other measures that have been initiated this summer. I mention, among other things, the stand at Gardermoen, a separate summer-open telephone line, open health stations throughout the summer and a separate campaign aimed at the target group.

Does it hold up with attitude campaigns and threats of police reporting? – Both the immediate measures that have been launched and the new action plan that will come in the autumn contain several types of measures, of which attitude campaigns are a type of measure. I think we must have great breadth in the measures to achieve the goals of the work. The openness and the public discussion we are experiencing now I think is of great importance. The measures are concentrated on the Somali environment in Norway, which other groups do you want to work towards? – When it comes to immigrants from Africa, Somalis are by far the largest group. But the work against female genital mutilation is also aimed at immigrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria and other countries where the abuse takes place.

Are you afraid of stigmatizing or criminalizing these groups? – In our press releases and other announcements, we have been clear that female genital mutilation is a thousand-year-old tradition, and that the abuses take place in many countries where Somalia is one. We now work closely with the environments concerned. Their visibility in this debate is the best tool against stigma.

What about action campaigns in the home countries, is this something you have discussed with colleague and Minister for Development Aid Erik Solheim? – Norway has its own international action plan against female genital mutilation. Erik Solheim and I have a close dialogue on this issue precisely because he is responsible for our projects in other countries, while I am responsible for the same here at home.

Attitude campaign is also central to the government's work against forced marriage. Does this hold then? – Both in the work against forced marriage and the work against female genital mutilation, attitude campaigns are one of a number of measures. In relation to forced marriage, for example, we now employ our own advisers in a number of upper secondary schools, we create secure housing and we equip our most relevant outstations. In addition, we strengthen the work of voluntary organizations. We will follow the same line in the action plan against female genital mutilation. A wide range of measures where schools, health services, child welfare and the police together will both prevent and help those who are vulnerable. ■

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