Category: ‘cultural defense’

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.

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.

Youth café’s in Urk

13 May 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Urk, the small town – once island – traditionally focused on sea fishing

Grotere kaart weergeven

was in the news today with so-called ‘jeugdhonken’ – places for the youth to meet and gather and have fun, but that more and more seem to function as café’s. Illegal café’s that is, because they operate without a license for selling beer and other alcoholics.

The national news showed an industrial area, where the young rent garage boxes for about € 400 a month and restyle them into ‘fancy places’ that probably look like the bars their parents visit.

Their arguments are ‘it is cheap and ‘gezellig’ and there is no fighting like in town’. There are regular visits from police and fire brigade, to check if safety is in order, not to close them down (!). Interestingly, mayor Jaap Kroon (Christian Democrats) is behind the youth. Only if it becomes too large and not a ‘friends meeting’ anymore, he would intervene, he said. And by the way, this is traditional Urk legal culture, as he referred to ‘the kotters [fishing boats] which in the past had always a double function of fishing boat and meeting and drinking place.’

Village as a fortress

4 March 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Yesterday national newspaper De Volkskrant had an item on Westkapelle, a village in Zeeland, as a closed fortress for police and law enforcement agencies.

Last year a local pedophile and excessive drugs abuse among youth came into the open. In the orthodox protestant, rather closed community however people tend not to talk about problems, and tend ‘not to hang the dirty laundry outside’ – as the Dutch saying is. A prosecution officer finds the tendencies ‘rather bizarre’ …

Jewish Rabbi & row over gays

22 January 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, living in the US but also having an official function in the Jewish community in Amsterdam, in 2011 signed a declaration stating the ‘official’ view of the Torah that homosexuality should be healed. At first he had also signed on behalf of the Amsterdam community, but Ronnie Eisenmann, head of that community, asked him to remove reference to Amsterdam. According to Eisenmann the Declaration does not do justice to the Dutch way of dealing with the issue and does not reflect the Dutch view.

Ralbag at first wanted to come to the Netherlands to explain the official view. The Amsterdam Jewish Community however suspended his position. Today Ralbag announced he would not visit the Netherlands for some time because there are ‘strong indications that he and his wife ‘would not be sure of their lives if they came to the Netherlands now’.

I just wonder who from which group would threaten Ralbag. One would think it must be someone from the Dutch gay community … But seriously??! Come on …

black as soot

3 December 2011 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Sinterklaas, ‘traditional’ part of Dutch culture, has black helpers since the 19th century: Zwarte (black) Pieten. Despite protests, they do not want to leave us. From one of the songs is “even though I am black as soot, my intentions are good” (zelfs al ben ik zwart als roet, ik meen het toch goed).

Cultural Defense in Sweden?

1 September 2011 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

An Italian politician from the south of italy was on holiday with his family in Sweden. Wanting to enter a restaurant, his son refused and made a fuss on the street. The politician slapped him in the face. Two (somewhere it said ‘Libian’) men saw the incident and called the police. The Italian was put in jail for three days and has to face charges. According to the Swedish law, he faces a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.
Italian media say he is a good person and a good father, a model citizen. Discussion on Dutch internet fora is whether this is an example of a culture clash between Sweden and Italy. I just wonder what a Swedish judge would say when the Italian father excused himself saying he ‘did not know it was not allowed’ or even ‘I acted rightly’?

Hitting children out of love

11 March 2010 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The court of Utrecht ruled on 8 January 2010 that all three children of a family need be supervised for a year by the Youth Council (Bureau Jeugdzorg). The children showed ‘unusual behaviour’ at school, like hypocrisy, hitting children, and the use of fould language. The police got involved and during the investigation it turned out that the parents hit their children ‘not out of anger, but out of love’. They justified their behaviour by referring to their religion, and they said they were not willing to change.
The Child Care and Protection Board (Raad voor de Kinderbescherming) was asked to investigate and report to the court ‘whether there was a serious threat for the emotional and intellectual development of the children. The Board concluded that this was the case, a conclusion the court accepted and based its decision on. The court further said the decision was based on the fact that the parents did not wish to be open about their methods and refused to let the children talk to the Board.

The decision published with LJN BK8714 is available at (in Dutch only).

Contract on female circumcision

27 November 2009 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Local agencies in child care will ask parents of certain African countries (Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan) who live in the Netherlands, to sign a contract not to have their daughter circumcised. The idea was copied from France. The contract also states that circumcision in the Netherlands is a crime and that the parents will be prosecuted when they commit that crime. The expectation is that parents, when they visit their family in their home country, will show the document to their family members as an argument to resist social pressure to circumcise. (Source: NRC 25 Nov. 2009).

Acquittal for female circumcision case

13 September 2009 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

On 18 February 2009 I mentioned the first and ‘a-typical’ prosecution in the Netherlands for female circumcision. On 11 September 2009 the criminal court in Haarlem acquitted the father. According to the court, after hearing two expert witnesses on the case, the girl was mutilated on purpose. However, it was unclear when that happened and there was no proof whatsoever that it was the father who mutilated his daughter. The daughter/victim had accused her father and had said ‘that her mother was in the room’, but the experts and the court find that she was put under pressure by her foster parents with whom she then lived.
The father was however convicted for biting his daughter in her cheek, and slapping her face and back several times. His lawyer put forward as a defence that these acts were to be seen as ‘correcting slaps’, but the court found that they were too grave and dismissed the lawyer’s arguments. The father was sentenced for 3 months in jail.
Update: See NRC.
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