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Ending the Centuries-Old Illegal Practice of Female Genital Mutilation; Imagine a World. Aired 11-11:30p ET

Aired December 30, 2015 - 23:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour with a special edition of

our program, looking back at some of the year's biggest stories.

Now although women continue to make huge strides, they also continue to be abused every which way. Indeed, the U.K. says it's experiencing the

highest level of domestic violence ever.

But one of the truly savage assaults on young girls around the world today remains female genital mutilation.

It is not a religious practice but it is a centuries-old cultural custom that continues despite the growing efforts to ban it, including here in

Britain, where the government has now stepped in to enforce a new law, mandating doctors, nurses and teachers across this country to report any

cases that they encounter.

Around the world, things are changes but not fast enough.

Since I was with a CNN team in Cairo 20 years ago, our camerawoman, Mary Rogers, was able to film the most disturbing and heartbreaking story of one

Egyptian girl, which we want to show you again. And it is actually very hard to watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Nedla is 10 years old. She's excited to be the center of attention, fearful of what might happen next. This

morning she will be circumcised.

Haq Omar is known in Arabic as a "hygienic barber." He circumcises thousands of girls each year, as did his father before him. He doesn't

bother to wash his hands or the child.

A ripped sheet makes a crude bandage around her waist. The family celebrates.

The operation will be quick, without anesthetic.

"Shame on you," chides the barber, "it's finished. Soon you can get up and go play."

Officially, the Egyptian government condemns female genital mutilation but it turns a blind eye to the practice. Studies show 80 percent to 90

percent of lower income girls are circumcised, usually in unhygienic operations that can lead to infection and severe blood loss.

"Daddy, daddy," screams Nedla.

"There is a sin upon all of you."

Nedla's family fears that without circumcision, she'll become sexually promiscuous. It's not known why Egyptians traditionally circumcise their

daughters. The family believes it's part of Islam but religious scholars disagree.

It's almost unheard of in other Islamic countries.

"I want you to know, Daddy, that I didn't want to be circumcised and you did it to me," Nedla says.

"Don't be a brat," her grandmother calls.

"It's over," says her father.

"Be brave, Nedla. Be brave."



AMANPOUR: That was 1994. And yet, to this day, millions of girls are illegally circumcised in Egypt and around the world every year.

Leyla Hussein is a survivor of the practice and she's now an anti-FGM campaigner. She joined me to talk about this here on the set in London.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program.

You know, as heartbreaking and as awful to watch as that was and is, is it actually important to put that out on television still today?

LEYLA HUSSEIN, FGM SURVIVOR AND ACTIVIST: I mean, it is obviously extremely upsetting and you can talk about FGM all day, every day, and read

about it, but I think sometimes showing images of what actually happens to these girls, it puts it in perspective.


AMANPOUR: And the terror of that little girl, who actually thought something wonderful was going to happen to her. She'd been told that it

was a party, a celebration.

You yourself are a survivor of this practice.

What happened?

HUSSEIN: I mean, watching that clip, I mean, it takes me back to my own experience. And I think people need to understand, when that girl

obviously was happy, there's a grooming process, a talk before that, you know, making someone think this is a great idea.

But actually, in theory, she really doesn't know actually what's going to happen. I think that's what happened to my myself and over 140 million

women. There is a grooming process involved in this.

We were led to believe this is actually great for us but actually, in theory, FGM is fundamentally child abuse and it's one of the worst forms of

violence against women and girls.

AMANPOUR: How important is what the government said today, that all doctors, nurses, teachers must report or be fired this week?

HUSSEIN: Absolutely. It's about time people were accountable for this because, again, I always used example when I was pregnant with my daughter,

my scar, my hand, burnt cigar, was actually recorded by my FGM scar was never recorded.

So nobody took the appropriate steps to actually support me as someone who's been through this. So, I think, I absolutely welcome the mandatory

reporting for health professionals to make sure the women and girls who come under their care are protected from this. So it's absolutely


AMANPOUR: I just to want play also a report that we've just received from our Nima Elbagir from Kenya, because it does show that, while the one in

Egypt sort of happened in, as we said, this sort of party, rite of passage way, now, the numbers in Kenya are dropping dramatically.

HUSSEIN: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: But also it's happening in the shadows, as she found out.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The practice of cutting is often handed down through the same family, through the generations, from mother to

daughter and so on and so on. They think of themselves as being the arbiters of a moral code, not just for these families but for the community

as a whole.

One such family, one such mother-daughter team, today has agreed to meet with us in secret in their home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are doing it because it is important for us. It's because when girls don't get cut when they are

young, they go after boys while they are still young and we don't want that. We don't want them to get spoiled. That's why we do it.

ELBAGIR: FGM is illegal in Kenya but that doesn't stop it happening. All that happens in practice is that it gets pushed into darkened rooms like

this one. This is where the girls are brought and they're laid down on the floor on plastic sheeting like this.

These are the ropes that are used to tie the girls down. These are the razor blades that they cut them with.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): It's not just Kenyan girls that are cut as FGM is known. British girls with family ties to Kenya are also brought here

during their school holidays.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We sit down the girl, someone blindfolds her and lays her down on the ground. Then we cut. We cut three


Then you put the ethanol spirit, you take the ethanol spirit like this and pour it on the wound. The ethanol is a bit painful but it stops bleeding.

We blindfold them and put hands over their mouths; they don't even scream because, if they do, their agemates will despise them. So they hold it

back and endure the pain. They can't make noise because of what other girls might think of them.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): FGM is, of course, as illegal back in Britain as it is here in Kenya but the law in both countries seems powerless in the face

of centuries of this torturous cultural practice -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Nairobi.


AMANPOUR: So your reaction to that, decreasing but nonetheless still happening.

HUSSEIN: Unfortunately, I mean, I would like to commend Kenya for really being at the forefront in terms of global work in trying to end FGM.

However, we can't also stay silent on the reality, where girls are still being cut. And my concern has always been diaspora girls, taken back to

the -- Kenya and to be cut.

Oh, no, no. We know, we know it happens. And it's really important --


HUSSEIN: -- when tackling FGM that we do -- we don't just focus on one area. I think diaspora is also a big issue. Again, it's to make it very

clear, FGM is practiced by all religions.

Obviously not -- the holy books don't promote FGM at all but I think somehow FGM was always associated with Islam. And I think because the

survivors that spoke out are from Islamic background but we are very aware, you know, I know personally, as a therapist, I work with women who are

Christians, Jewish, non-believers.

So, for me, it's recognizing this, it's not a religious practice, it's a form of -- it's a form of a practice where it's -- the aim to control

women's sexuality, full stop. This is why this happens really.

So I think it would be easy for all of us if we just kept reaching out of this conversation. It just makes it easier and to face and deal with --


AMANPOUR: You brought out, you know, the issue of sexuality. You know, one campaign, campaigner sort of said that, you know, it's a manmade

practice to control women, as you've just said.

Why do they choose our genitals and not our hands and not our legs?

Because they need our hands to cook and clean for them and they need our legs for us to go out and work and make money.

HUSSEIN: Listen, I know who that is, Agnes Pereira (ph) from Kenya, who said this to me years ago, absolutely. There's a reason why our genitals

were specifically targeted.

You know, women are not supposed to have sexual pleasure. Women are not supposed to experiment with their sexuality.

So we need to ask ourselves, why is there such a focus on women's sexuality, not necessarily so much on boys?

So that really is the challenge.

So why does my body have to be controlled or monitored, you know, policed, you know, by the police of morals, I would call, and somehow the history of

my genitals has become an issue for a whole community?

So that really is what I need -- what we need to challenge. And I've always said, as a woman, why do I, if I'm supposed to be the weaker sex,

why do I have to hold the honor of my family?

And my brother, supposedly the stronger sex but, you know, if a man sees a woman's naked neck, he rapes her, he couldn't help himself.

Women need to challenge those attitudes before we deal with -- you know, before FGM or any forms of oppression of women actually ends.

AMANPOUR: We do indeed.

Leyla Hussein, thank you for all the work you do.

HUSSEIN: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: Thank you for coming on.


AMANPOUR: When we come back, India and the shocking crime committed against a young medical student. Three years later, the widely acclaimed

film, "India's daughter," about her lethal gang rape on a bus in New Delhi, is keeping the outrage alive. But I'll ask the filmmaker whether

anything's in fact changed. That's next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our special edition, where we're looking back at some of the year's most important stories.

Now sometimes a single shock is so profound that it can shake a nation to its very core. That is what happened in India three years ago.

A young female medical student is gang-raped and brutalized on a bus in New Delhi and she dies from her injuries. The event sparks protests across the



AMANPOUR: Her family is devastated.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

AMANPOUR (voice-over): After that tragedy, officials promised to toughen up the laws against sexual crimes. Four men were sentenced to death,

including Mukesh Singh, here describing the brutal assault but denying that he took part.

MUKESH SINGH, RAPE PERPETRATOR (Speaking foreign language).


AMANPOUR: Now all of these interviews have been captured in an extraordinary documentary that was released this year. "India's Daughter,"

it's keeping the case alive as well as the demand for answers and full accountability.

The documentary director is Lesley Udwin and she joined me to talk to me about her very powerful film.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program.

LESLEY UDWIN, FILMMAKER: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: What made you take this on?

It was such a well-known story; it was dominating the news.

What more did you want to do?

UDWIN: I really wanted to amplify the voices of those protesters. I was awestruck by them. It occurred to me that I'd never seen in my lifetime

another country, as civilized as it calls itself, actually coming out with so much commitment to see change and call for change for women.

They were fighting for my rights; I wanted to amplify their voices. It was the least I could do.

AMANPOUR: And yet, do you believe that that level of passion and outrage that spilled onto the streets three years ago has actually brought lasting

change there?

UDWIN: Absolutely not. And I suppose it's been a learning journey for me, too. All of that passion is awe-inspiring; it is extraordinary. But it's


Where are those same passionate voices now?

Where are the voices crying out against the misguided and counterproductive ban that the Indian government has placed on this public interest film?

AMANPOUR: Well, exactly. Your film can't even be seen there and, according to Indian laws, we, on this program, cannot actually name the

victim, despite the fact that her parents have named her publicly; print articles can name her.

It's a further dehumanization of the woman.

UDWIN: Yes. I think everything conspires in this patriarchal world we live in -- and, you know, we've lived in patriarchal societies since time

immemorial. The entitlement, the sense of entitlement is with the men. We are, as women and girls, at the bottom of the heap of the world's concerns.

And we are constantly marginalized, not naming us when we have, you know, so much to scream out about the violation of our human rights, is another

way of pretending we don't exist.

AMANPOUR: There are parts of the world -- maybe many parts of the world -- that think it's the woman's fault.

So I want to play another clip of the extraordinary interview you got with one of those who was accused and who's on death row. Here's what he says,

Mukesh Singh.


SINGH: (Speaking foreign language).


AMANPOUR: So there we go again. "It's the woman's fault."

But of course he's kind of contradicting himself; on the one hand, making this statement; whereas, just before, he had said, well, I had nothing to

do with it and I was just a bystander.

UDWIN: Well, of course, he is not going to -- with a final appeal pending in the supreme court, he is not going to say, "Hang me; I deserve it."

On the other hand, he is very honest about the part he played; you know, admits to being there, tells us every detail of what went on.

AMANPOUR: But not that he took part in the rape.

UDWIN: No, he says he did not leave the driver's seat.

There is a very interesting moment in the film, where there is body language that I invite the audience to look at and decide whether they

believe him or not.

But, yes, the girl is always blamed.

Christiane, I was raped when I was 18. And I have to tell you that I am ashamed of the fact that I never reported it.

I felt guilty about it because we are constantly told, "What were you wearing? Why did you go there? Why did you believe him?"

Excuse me. It is our right to trust another human being.

AMANPOUR: You make a pretty dramatic admission right here on global television. Your film, the outrage that poured out --


AMANPOUR: -- onto the streets after she was gang-raped three years ago, it seems that it's all there for a little moment and then it gets swept away


Is there a way, is there a big enough group of people in India who are willing to make this real change?

UDWIN: No, there isn't a big enough group of people anywhere in the world. But the perspective, the insights I've gleaned on this journey were so

searingly, blindingly clear to me.

They led to the perspective of what I know to be the solution and what I would venture to say is the only solution: what we're dealing with here is

mindset. The rape, the rapist, this isn't the disease; they are but the symptoms of the disease, as is trafficking, as is beheading of people.

The disease is a mindset that accords no value to another human being, a mindset that has not been taught and practiced in empathy, in seeing the

world from another human being's point of view. It's violation of human rights, whether those human rights have been violated on a racial,

religious or gender basis.

So how do we change mindset?

There's only one way: education. And when I came to examine what it is we're teaching the children of the world, I realized, forcibly, we're

teaching them numeracy and literacy.

We are totally neglecting their holistic, moral education, teaching them respect, breaking down gender stereotypes, teaching them ethics and


And I am actually spearheading a global education initiative, which I'm advising the U.N. Human Rights Office on, which I know will change the


And we have extraordinary supporters for the film and the initiative -- Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson -- and we're starting a theatrical campaign

with the film now, which points out the problem and launching this education campaign, which is the solution.

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, this is going to be very, very heavy lifting for you because even though, you know, you say and everybody says, well, this

is not just an India problem; it happens all over the world, there is a problem.

There has been, over the last month or more, another horrendous case in India, where -- just the headlines here in England, you know, outrage at

rape punishment for Indian sisters over something their brother did, a stain on India.

The proposed rape of two sisters in rural India as a punishment is part of a deeper national malaise.

There is a problem with a country or countries who have that in their cultural DNA.

UDWIN: I would argue, though, that it is in the cultural DNA of every country, to see a woman as of lesser value than a man. Now it simply

expresses itself to varying degrees and with varying characteristics.

So if you're in Saudi Arabia and drive a car and you're a woman, you'll be imprisoned and arrested.

If you are in the U.S. and you're a woman, you'll earn 78 cents in the pound or you will be raped on college campus; you have a 25 percent chance

of that.

If you're in the U.K., one in three girls between the ages of 13 and 17 has experienced sexual violence.

We educate their heads. We have never educated the hearts of mankind.

AMANPOUR: And you are using the end of your film as a sort of roll call of global statistics like you've just been talking about.

UDWIN: Correct. And audiences across the world respond to that and hold their hands up and are willing to introspect and say, yes, this is our

problem, too.

It's the last, most important punctuation mark; in fact, it's the meaning of the film, that rape is a symptom of a disease of gender inequality,

which is pandemic across the whole world.

AMANPOUR: Lesley Udwin, a great film and a very passionate voice for change, thank you so much.

UDWIN: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, imagine a world where music really is a sanctuary, especially to Londoners, thanks to one small church. We pay a

visit when we come back.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, the American writer, Maya Angelou, once said that music was a refuge from all her personal pain. Well, tonight, we

imagine a world where the vulnerable in London's rough and tumble East End find their refuge in music, at a church where no one pays any attention to

divisions of class or wealth.


REVEREND NIALL WEIR, RECTOR, ST. PAUL'S WEST HACKNEY: One of the wonderful things I think for me has been seeing people, who perhaps are rubbing up

against people that they might never have -- their paths might not have crossed in life, suddenly coming together.

You might get a city lawyer sitting next to a recovering drug addict. You have no idea who you're sitting next to, which is one of the glories of it.

GEORGE ATIASE, CHURCH MEMBER: I started off as a drug addict. And I've been not using drugs for quite a few years now. And one of the meetings in

the hall helped me continue not to use drugs.


TOM DAGGETT, MUSICAL DIRECTOR: You have people in this choir who haven't sung for maybe even 40, 50 years, since they were at school, and yet we

have a lot of power. We have a lot of passion because people understood the nature of the project and the nature of this, wanting to build

community through music.

WEIR: We want to raise people up. That's what we want to do.

We want to send people away thinking, "I did that, I achieved that."

And if people go away feeling more confident and feeling part of something, then job done.


AMANPOUR: And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can now always listen to our show as a podcast or see it online at

Follow me, of course, on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.