FGM awareness campaign

28th Feb 2014

Social Affairs Correspondent

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been banned in the UK for thirty years but a new campaign, spearheaded by a young Somali teenager, 17 year old Fahma Mohamed, seeks to bring the issue much more into the forefront of peoples’ consciousness in order to prevent its alleged wide-scale continuance.

The practice, which involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical but traditional and cultural reasons, pre-dates the spread of Islam. The “operation”’ – which is a formal medical procedure in some countries eg Egypt, but little more than “a brutal cutting”’ in many other countries where it is practised – is not only immediately dangerous if it is done in rudimentary settings by traditional “cutters,” but can have devastating future consequences for the victims. For instance, when carried out by tribal cutters, as featured, for example, in a Guardian Online video about Kenyan “cutters”, girls can die of blood loss or infection. The pain and distress can be devastating. It can also leave permanent physical and psychological damage which affects women’s general and sexual health as well as their fertility.

In addition, intimate relations, for instance, can become difficult or impossible for some women; the right Islam gives women to enjoy the marital relation can be dreadfully impeded and not only is fertility affected, but child-bearing and giving birth can be life-threatening.

Its prevalence in both Muslim majority and minority countries including: Somalia (98%), Egypt (91%), Mali (89%), Ethiopia (74%), Guinea-Bissau (50%) and Nigeria (27%), (figures according to UNICEF), makes it an important Muslim and humanitarian public health issue. And not just for international campaigners. According to the British Government, more than 20,000 British girls may be at risk of having this procedure done to them – both abroad where they may be taken for so-called “cutting holidays” or in Britain.

There is concern that despite the 30 years of anti-FGM legislation, no prosecutions have been brought against traditional or medical FGM practitioners and no parents have been prosecuted for contravening the specific FGM legislation or for flouting child abuse rules which now include “allowing” abuse to take place without notifying relevant authorities. Hence the campaign is timely.

Change.Org and a broad coalition of organisations, has, with the support of Ms Mohamed – (one of a family of nine sisters, not personally afflicted by the practice, according to the media, but who has seen the devastation wrought by it within her wider circle of family and friends) – called for the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to allow teaching staff to alert parents and children to the horrors of the practice. Campaigners have also called for better data on exactly how many victims there might be/actually are. In response to this, hospital staff are to start keeping records of patients presenting for services who have undergone FGM, something which will surely help to identify the historical extent of the problem and how/whether it is as widespread as alleged.

In a parallel universe, it is well known that a significant number of Western women voluntarily and legally submit to cosmetic surgery – including recently, in the intimate area. Amnesty International’s Marianne Mollmann points out that although an adult choice has been made – something denied to FGM survivors – Western women, it can be argued, may also be considered to have been “forced”, however subliminally, to accept they’ve “failed” to meet societal expectations of what “the body beautiful” should be like. Mollmann (http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/01/10/female-genital-mutilation-breast-implantation-why-do-they-happen-and-how-do-we-st/) explores these issues suggesting a way forward for dealing with the problem which might be more effective than criminalisation alone.

Having visited communities where the practice of FGM is prevalent she describes how the “cutters” and the families they service, are all victims of deeply ingrained cultural norms to which they must conform in order to “fit in”. Whereas some Western women feel they would only find acceptance and validation if their primary and secondary sexual organs look a particular way, in Africa, girls and women are expected to behave in a particular way sexually to be accepted and “fit in” and this is achieved by the procedure.

Interestingly, Mollman describes how “cutters” are often aware of how they are perceived (as “monsters”), but, says Mollmann, they (wrongly) think they are doing “what was best” for their girls. It took an incident when Mollman held down her own daughter in the dentist’s chair while a tooth was being extracted “with both of us crying” to make her realise this truth.

“If the only reason for an intervention is that others think that’s what we “should” look like, and if the intervention is both semi-permanent and potentially damaging to our health, maybe what we “should do is reconsidered”, says Mollmann. This suggests a way of tackling these problems in a more holistic fashion which recognises women across all cultures face challenges and therefore, judgementalism will not be as effective as engagement, education and changing norms and attitudes.

Change.Org’s campaign is worthy of support if only to “increase awareness and also secure better data,” Spokesperson of Muslim Community Helpline told The Muslim News. She also added that it was important that the matter was handled sensitively.



One Response to “FGM awareness campaign”

Iftikhar AhmadFebruary 28, 2014

FGM has no connection with any religion, it is as prevalent in African christian communities as those practicing other faiths including tradition African religions. It is primarily a tribal/cultural element, much like ritual scarring etc. FGM is an ancient practice that originates across a plurality of cultures, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian peninsula, whether these are Christian, Islamic or animist. It in fact affects only a minority of

Can I make the point that nothing will ever be done about this practice as long as people get moderated on here for identifying the communities who are guilty of implementing it, as it’s just another example of political correctness gone mad.

” According to UNICEF, the top rates are in Somalia (with 98 percent of women affected), Guinea (96 percent), Djibouti (93 percent), Egypt (91 percent), Eritrea (89 percent), Mali (89 percent), Sierra Leone (88 percent), Sudan (88 percent), Gambia (76 percent), Burkina Faso (76 percent), Ethiopia (74 percent), Mauritania (69 percent), Liberia (66 percent), and Guinea-Bissau (50 percent). Outside Africa FGM occurs in Yemen (23 percent prevalence), among the Kurds in Iraq (giving the country an overall prevalence rate of eight percent), Indonesia and Malaysia.

These are the facts and we shouldn’t ignore them. For that reason there is probably not too much point in warning all the children in Truro about it, but attack it at the likely sources, which is where there are immigrants from the listed countries.

The white man complex is a term that is not discussed much but can be seen nearly in all cultural discussions. This term basically describes the superiority complex that many in this community possess which has deluded them to believe that their culture is superior or that their OPINIONS matter which is far from the truth. Instead of looking at problems within in their own community; Mass exploitation of the poor, mass corruption, paedophilia that is prevalent in schools and churches, entertainment business and even politics they instead focus on other communities and cultures.

I suggest seeing as this practice of female circumcision is not so prevalent in the UK that you focus on you own issues and stop talking down on others. I can guarantee that the communities in question care not for your words and for you to stop dictating to everyone how they should live and what they should do.

Yeah like your people ever followed the rules of the country which you entered illegally in the past. To this day you still do not follow the rules and customs of nations which you migrate to (Emirates,Qatar, India etc). How about you learn the languages of the nations which you migrate to, follows their rules and customs and then complain when the same is not done in the UK.

Like i said before, this talk of female circumcisions has been going on for a very long time, but nothing has changed because the communities which practice it do not listen to a bunch of bigoted people who talk down on Also, as it seems it needs to be pointed out, from a few comments here, I’d like to add that it’s quite wrong to see FGM and the circumcision of boys as equivalent. A circumcised boy can, as an adult, enjoy a normal (or even not so normal) sex life. A girl or woman who has been exposed to FGM cannot do that, in the sense that she can never have an orgasm. There is a tremendous difference, and it’s a pity that the term “circumcision” is often used where both sexes are concerned — it’s highly misleading.every other culture and custom. Once you realise this you can do more worthwhile things such as stopping your priests from molesting your children.


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