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The Battle Over Female Genital Mutilation Rages on in Russia

at 6:06 pm | By

The Battle for Women’s Rights in Russia

Female genital mutilation is one of the most controversial topics in human rights and, especially, women’s rights across the world today.

Many opinions exist on the topic, ranging from religious to cultural to pseudoscientific, and its other moniker of ‘female circumcision’ lessens the severe sound of the practice’s reality. Make no mistake, this is mutilation through and through. The practice on females is gruesome and violent, done more often to maim and oppress women rather than to benefit them in any way. In many cultures, FGM is performed without anesthetics and at an age when the woman is well aware of what is happening, regardless of what she has been taught about the subject.

But contrary to most reports on the subject, female genital mutilation does not occur only in North Africa. Though widely criminalized, millions of women around the world are still affected by FGM, and rates are alarmingly high among Muslim populations in Asia.

Most recently, an influential Muslim cleric in Russia came forward supporting FGM, striking fear into the hearts of millions of Russians about what exactly was happening in their own country. Now a political war is raging for women’s rights, and it’s still unclear which side will prevail.

womens rights women fist in air

Credit: Chinnapong/Shutterstock

The female legislator working hardest to stop FGM just lost her reelection…

An Illegal Reality

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Credit: Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock

Though typically associated with northern African countries, female genital mutilation continues to be a hot topic of debate around the world, especially among Muslim populations.

What’s most important to note is that, in 2012, the General Assembly of the UN unanimously voted to condemn and ban the practice, calling upon countries to increase education and awareness in order to stop the practice. Sadly, it still affects millions of women and girls, largely in Africa, Indonesia, and the Middle East.

Earlier this week, a major religious figure in Russia, one of the permanent members of the UN’s Security Council, came forward to outspokenly support female genital mutilation, subsequently leading to major turmoil among Russian human rights watchers.

Ismail Berdiev

Ismail Berdiev putin


According to the Moscow Times, an influential Muslim cleric from Russia’s North Caucasus region (bordering Georgia and stretching from the Black and Caspian Seas) named Ismail Berdiev came forward this past week calling for every woman in Russia to undergo female genital mutilation.

A member of the Presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Communities and chairman of the Coordination Center of North Caucasus Muslims, Berdiev said, “All women must be cut, so that there will be no depravity on Earth. It would be good if this was done to every woman […] The Almighty created women to give birth and raise children, but cutting them has nothing to do with this. Women will still birth children but there will be less depravity.”

Acknowledging that FGM is not a part of his faith, Berdiev instead offered it up as a solution to moral depravity across the country.

Sadly, other major religious figures came to his support.