Category: ‘multiculturalism’

Michigan doctors charged in first federal genital mutilation case in US

23 April 2017 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

“In the first federal case involving female genital mutilation filed in the United States, two Michigan doctors and the wife of one of the doctors have been charged with performing the banned procedure on two 7-year-old girls.”

How come fgm/c is said to happen quite often, even among migrants in the US and in Europe, while prosecution hardly ever happens? Are these cases so difficult to detect? Is evidence unreliable? Doesn’t the police pay attantion to it?

In this case, CNN reports: “The Detroit Free Press reported from the hearing that Smith said her client removed membrane from the girls’ genital area using a “scraper” as part of a religious practice. The girls’ parents would then bury the membrane in the ground in accordance with their religious custom, Smith said, according to the Free Press account.” 

‘Removing membrane’ – if this is an accurate description of the practice – is maybe hard to classify as fgm/c?

For an article on the approach toward fgm/c in the Netherlands, see Renée Kool ‘The Dutch approach to female genital mutilation in view of the ECHR’ in the Utrecht Law Review, 2010.

My two weeks at the ULB, Maison de Sciences Humaines

8 April 2017 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Ik mocht de laatste twee weken van maart 2017 als ‘professeur invité’ fed13640-0ba5-418a-bd20-2f50f5d9b8a8-original werken op het Maison des Sciences Humaines van de Université Libre de Bruxelles. Zie hun website Het is een fantastische vrijplaats voor heel verschillende onderzoekers naar urbanisatie, East Asia, de Arabische wereld, en gender en seksualiteit.17388790_1121173508029346_5492226494380438154_o Ik vond naast het gewone werk, de seminars, een gastcollege en het Belgische bier ook tijd voor reflectie: welke onderzoeksprojecten waar de rechtspraak (ook) iets aan heeft, zijn interessant voor de komende jaren? Vast ook iets met culturele diversiteit … 🙂

You would probably never guess, but behind these doors0a94ca13-b623-4ea4-9c85-4c4300f3ba23-original is one of the most exciting institutions of the ULB, namely the Centre d’histoire du droit et d’anthropologie juridique (CHDAJ,! On 22 March 2017 we had a wonderful and interesting research seminar on « SELECTIVE MOBILISATION OF ‘CULTURE’ IN JUDICIAL SETTINGS ». Seminar_22march_Program&Venue-1[1] The seminar addressed the question of the mobilisation (or non-mobilisation) of the notions ‘culture’ and ‘cultural diversity’ by the different actors of the judicial system, specifically in family and youth justice. We had presentations by Caroline Simon (ULB), Olga Petintseva (UGhent), Anne Wyvekens (CNRS/ISP), Fabienne Brion (UCLouvain), and Livia Holden (Univ di Padua). We discussed institutional discourse, cultural expertise, routine practices of legal professionals, legal consciousness, interpretive spaces, legal cultural differences between the Netherlands, Flanders and Wallonia, and much more. We’ll try and have publications out in the near future, together with Barbara Truffin.

The Law faculty, and btw the whole of the ULB, has very diverse architecture. Here’s two photos to show that:
17636954_1128692497277447_8409080236508160963_o 17635349_1128692800610750_4016901464985044248_o

Another Dutch court on dissolution of Islamic marriage

4 September 2016 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The Dutch civil court in the city of Eindhoven, formally the ‘Rechtbank Oost-Brabant’, ruled on 3 August 2016 that a shiite man should cooperate in the dissolution of his Islamic marriage. The court ruled that the man infringes the freedom of his wife to enter into a new relationship (his wife issued a tort action). The man initially refused the dissolution because he first wanted the mahr back. The court balanced his interest against the freedom of his wife, and ruled in her favour.

The case can be found (in Dutch) on

Dutch court on Muslim divorce

19 February 2016 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

On 6 January 2016 the court of Rotterdam ruled it could not force a Muslim husband to cooperate with an Islamic divorce. The court argues that it is up to the woman to freely abide by Islamic rules, and that the issue in question does not relate to the Dutch legal order. The request of the woman (to order the man to perform a talaq or to cooperate with khula) is turned down.

See decision in Dutch: Sharia huwelijk – rb over weigering van de man om mee te werken aan ontbinding van het huwelijk

Of course the decision reached the media. Machteld Zee comments on the case (her recent PhD is shown), but also ‘Femmes for Freedom’ and lawyer Channa Samkalden who argues that ‘non-compliance with religious norms may have civil consequences for women’. The Clara Wichmann Institute will start a legal procedure (a so called ‘proefproces’) to secure that an Islamic divorce in the future can be secured. See, in Dutch:

Racism in the Netherlands – debate

19 August 2015 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

It is almost like the Dutch government these days (18 & 19 August) is sitting ‘in the dock’ in court, as one newspaper put it (NRC). The Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists with many other NGO’s and the UN Commission for human rights/Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded that the Netherlands does not do enough to combat racism. The government apparently is of the opinion that it does enough. ‘Discrimination namely is illegal. The law says so. There is no political party with a racist programme. And no politician was ever criminally convicted for racism.’ Some say the discussion ‘will only feed the anti-racism activists and the ‘asylum-industry’ with new arguments’. Others are of the opinion that ethnic profiling by the police, the high levels of unemployment among ethnic minorities, and the negative atmosphere surrounding the discussion on Black Pete, are real problems that should be tackled.

I think it is always interesting how the law can be used to ward of accusations. ‘According to the law it is illegal, so what are you talking about?’ Everybody knows however that daily routine and practice is not a mirror of the law: in actual practice people do have stereotypes, do prefer to hire employees from one group over the other, do discriminate. If the law apparently is not able to combat that, the question is if the government is doing enough by just referring to the law.

Kijken in de ziel van rechters: over de interpretatie van het gedrag van de verdachte

12 August 2015 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Interessant om een uitzending te zien waarin Coen Verbraak aan rechters uitspraken weet te ontlokken die alle vermoedens bevestigen die ik in 1998 al in mijn proefschrift verwoordde: onbevooroordeeld de rechtszaal ingaan is een fictie en stereotypen doen ertoe. Zie de uitzending Kijken in de ziel van 27 juli 2015.


18 November 2013 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

I have been subscribed to this YouTube channel for some time. About stereotypes. It is always relevant, funny, light, and serious. Focused on the USA with its weird ideas about ‘race’. Still, this one is nice, too. Watch and share!

Fuss over a religious marriage of minors

15 May 2013 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

A small but maybe evolving to a large stir in the polder of Dutch legal culture and its relation to ethnic and religious minorities: The organization ‘Femmes for Freedom’ aired in a national newspaper that the Amsterdam police and the organization Fier Fryslan helped to arrange an Islamic religious marriage between a young Pakistani girl and boy. The case, as far as can be reconstructed from the newspaper article, was that the girl was promised to marry a cousin in Pakistan, but she fell in love with a local guy. This resulted in a clash with her parents, with (threats of?) violence toward the girl who was subsequently (with help of police) brought to a women’s shelter.

Negotiations then began, of which the result was that the parents agreed to a religious marriage with the local guy, so that they had a ‘valid argument’ for the cousin in Pakistan. During a workshop organized by the Ministry of Social Affairs on ‘Honour and Freedom’ the police and Fier Fryslan presented the case as a ‘success story’.

The newspaper cites one person, lawyer Ellie van den Brom who is experienced with ethnic minorities family legal issues, who agrees with the pragmatic solution for the dilemma of ‘either break with your family and get a new identity’ versus ‘negotiate for a pragmatic solution’. Others were ‘flabbergasted’ and ‘fell off their chair when they heard about it’. Their reactions are telling for the polarized discourse in this: ‘a woman in a religious marriage hardly has any rights’, there is a ‘danger of being locked up in the marriage because if a man does not agree with a divorce then you will never get rid of him’, and ‘a religious marriage leaves a woman without any rights’. The girl moreover – the tendency in the article is – probably did not know what she did.

Apart from this, the accusation was that the police broke the law because they aided in the religious marriage. In Dutch law however, only a person with a certain religious status who concludes the marriage, acts illegally (art 449 of the Criminal Law says “de bedienaar van de godsdienst” i.e. the servant of a religion).

And without being too cynical: Let us not forget the possibility that the girl will be killed anyway, married or not.

His name was Nadir …

10 January 2013 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

This is how far the Netherlands have drifted from what was once a relatively easy going, relaxed, tolerant society: a son of a Dutch-Turkish father and a Dutch mother was given a beautiful name at birth. I guess his name is Nadir, meaning ‘rare’. Born in 1995. At primary school however, he is reproached for his name by his peers. Called a foreigner and a Muslim. Same in high school. The guy in the mean time learned that having a name like ‘Nadir’ in Holland won’t get you into a job easily. So he wants to have his name changed.

His parents (because he is a minor) ask the court for a name change. They understand their son. They are realistic, and have to agree with him, regretfully. The court stresses the principle of equality of all citizens in the Netherlands and says that ‘names should not matter’ in a multicultural society. However, the court is realistic too, and is convinced by the stories of the parents and of Nadir himself. The judge allows for the change of name.

So now the guy is called … ? Jan? Koen? … What a pity.

See the court decision in Dutch.

Alevi cemevi

8 November 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

On 27 October the first privately owned cemevi of the Alevi community in ‘t Gooi in the Netherlands was officially opened. The mayor was there, members of the board of the Alevi Federation Hak.Der were there, and further lots of local people (and nice music and food).

See the coverage of the local newspaper (in Dutch).

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