“You will be honoured by your future husband and you will be pure”. These words are alleged to be some of the benefits of this practice. Unfortunately, many young females are led to believe that, the practice of FGM is normal within society, as it shows honour to their families. How can the practice of FGM be challenged by a young person when individuals they trust, love and respect are all rooting to for this practice and declare it as an honourable practice?.
It is estimated that approximately 103,000 women between the ages of 15-49 who have migrated into England are living with the lasting effects of this FGM (HM Government. 2016). World Health Organisation (2017) reported that, “It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. Furthermore, there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years old” This practice is currently prevalent in 30 documented African countries.
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
FGM is a deliberate removal or cutting of the female genitalia for a non-medical purpose often seen as a cultural, religious or social practices within some ethnic groups. To its extreme, girls as young as 5 are held down and cut with a razor or a broken glass. Their outer and labia are cut and sewn with or without removal of the clitoris or inner labia. This practice is painful, damages sexual sensitive, causes infections and complications during child birth. The practice of FGM causes implications on a child’s wellbeing holistically, FGM is child abuse, it is illegal and has serious health risks.
Types (4) of Female Genital Mutilation
- Type 1 (clitoridectomy) – removing part or the entire clitoris.
- Type 2 (excision) – removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia with or without removal of the labia majora.
- Type 3 (infibulation) – narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
- Other harmful procedures to the female genitals, including pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping or burning the area.
Safeguarding our young girls
Children’s welfare should be paramount within any community. Any deliberate act of abuse to a child is against the law and suspects will be prosecuted. Legislations criminalising FGM include The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, Children Act 1989 and 2004, Human Rights Act 1998, The Children (northern Ireland) Order 1995 and European Convention on Human rights- specifically article 3 which states no one should be subjected to “torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Professionals as well as communities have a responsibility to ensure that families know that, FGM is illegal and that the authorities are actively tackling the issue.
Practices of FGM are a high profile cases for police who have and are actively conducting checks on flights to countries known to practice FGM. If a family perform this act on a child or assist with the practice outside the UK or within the UK, they can be prosecuted for up to 14 years. FGM like any other criminal offence can be stopped! Listen to a child and listen for clues.
Possible indication of this practice may include:
- Families withdrawing their children from learning about FGM.
- A child confiding that she is undergoing a “special procedure” to become a woman.
- Long holidays to her country of origin where FGM is prevalent.
- Children indirectly communicating their concern and fears about going away.
Subsequently, is this practice “culture” or torture? Cutting children’s genitals with a razor or broken glass is not culture. Culture brings about a sense of belonging; it provides hope, unity and contentment. FGM is torture!
Anyone can help prevent long term trauma to a child by communicating any concerns about FGM to the authorities (police or social care)
For help or more knowledge about FGM please visit:
- Desert Flower
- Daughter of Eve
Reference and Further Reading