Pia Grassivaro Gallo, Franco Vivani, M. Livio, R. Corsaro,
F. De Cordova, G. Fortunato, S. Beccaccini, Sirad Salad Hassan

Presented at the Fourth International Symposium on Sexual Mutilations,
University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, August 9-11, 1996.

Until 1989, we dealt with the impact of the practice of female genital mutilation in our country as a consequence of migration from other regions. The doctors that were interviewed did not exclude the possibility that female genital mutilation was carried out in Italy. They also believed that African children, born in Western countries, undergo the operation during trips to their parents' home country.

In 1992, a working group on female genital mutilation coordinated by Professor Pia Grassivaro Gallo was established at the Department of General Psychology of the University of Padua. The first survey on obstetricians and gynecologists facing female genital mutilation in African immigrants in Italy was carried out in 1993. Information furnished by these doctors (n=327) permitted us to verify that female genital mutilation is uniformly distributed throughout the country. An indirect estimate of the number of excised African women living in Italy counted no less than 27,000 individuals.

Two other surveys were conducted in 1994: an analysis of the relationship existing between Italian obstetricians/gynecologists and excised patients and a study aiming to establish an interethnic ethic in order to identify and solve the drama of a moral paradox arising between western and African culture.

Research on defibulation began in 1955, and was considered to be a tool to evaluate the integration of mutilated women in western society. With the latter, we came to know how African women come to pass this choice. Preliminary results demonstrate that immigrants rarely practice defibulation without medical motivation. A 1996 survey, Female Genital Mutilation in the Evolutive Ages, confirmed the hypothesis that female genital mutilation is performed in Italy, perhaps in health centers by doctors or at home and in refugee camps by obstetricians. It also appears that it is common tradition among Egyptians and Somalis to send little girls to the homeland for the operation.

[The complete paper is published in Sexual Mutilations: A Human Tragedy, New York: Plenum Press, 1997 (ISBN 0-306-45589-7).]

Pia Grassavaro Gallo graduated in Biology and received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Padua. She is Associate Professor in General Biology, Faculty of Psychology at the University of Padua. Her research work for the last 25 years has been dedicated to Somali women and to the physical development of children in Somalia. She was invited by the Somali Ministry of Public Health in 1981 to take part in a scientific mission to Somaliland, and her visit was supported by Italian and international organizations operating in Somalia. Her scientific activity in Somalia has received recognition both at national and international levels.

Franco Viviani graduated in Biological Sciences from the University of Padua where he is now professor of Physical Education, Cultural Anthropology and General Biology. In 1986, he directed the film "Somalian schoolgirls speak," a documentary on female genital mutilation in Somalia. In 1991, he participated in a field research project on genital mutilation. That same year, he and Professor Gallo received honorable mention from the Royal Academy of Overseas Science (Belgium). He has organized surveys, research projects and symposia on female genital mutilation.

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