The issue I am about to speak about was something I was aware of, but not previously researched or delved into. Kerry from www.kerryjeanlister.com asked her contacts with some sort of public platform if they would share the Plan UK – because I am a girl campaign video. I decided to look more into it and it left me feeling, well….disturbed!
The summer holidays are approaching and my little girl will be enjoying the sunshine, taking day trips and meeting up with friends and family. The same can’t be said for an estimated 20,000 girls in the UK that are at risk of FGM (Female Genital mutilation).
The summer holidays is known as the ‘cutting season‘ in the UK. The removal of the external genitalia has a lengthy recovery period. Girls will spend weeks in bed with their legs strapped together.
Pain doesn’t end at the initial cutting and recovery. Women with the most severe mutilation (type 3) will later be cut open again for intercourse on her wedding night and then again for child birth. A 1988 poem by Somali woman Dahabo Musa described infibulation as the “three feminine sorrows“.
An FGM victim explained how when she began menstruating, the blood became trapped inside her. Doctors believed she had a cyst and when on the operating table, they discovered what had happened to her. She now cannot have children.
If you haven’t heard of FGM, you may be wondering why on earth would anyone put their little girl through this barbaric practise. It is a deep rooted social tradition among many countries and diverse groups – mainly in Africa and lesser so, the Middle East. There are many different reasons for FGM. Some will say for religious purposes, although the kuran doesn’t state anywhere that girls must have this.
Other ethnic groups believe that the female genitalia is ugly and dirty and must be removed to ensure marriage. The purpose in Kenya and Uganda is to reduce a woman’s sexual desire so that her husband can take several wives. It is also to preserve a women’s sexual honour before marriage and someone who is not ‘cut’ will be viewed by her community as whorish.
Some bullet points taken from Plan UK
FGM in figures
- 3 million girls are at risk every year in Africa.
- 20,000 girls in the UK are at risk of FGM every year.
- 101 million girls aged 10 and above in Africa have undergone FGM.
- 125 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM.
What’s the problem with FGM?
- FGM causes severe pain. It can result in bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.
- It is one form of violence against women and girls.
- FGM is a harmful traditional practice that often means girls are taken out of school.
Women and girls who have undergone FGM are:
- Twice as likely to die during childbirth
- More likely to give birth to a stillborn baby than other women as a result of obstructed labour
- More susceptible to obstetric fistula (a severe medical condition that leads to incontinence)
- More susceptible to uterine, vaginal and pelvic infections
- More prone to suffering psychological damage and post-traumatic stress
- Likely to suffer extensive damage of the external reproductive system and sexual dysfunction.
You may say to me… we cannot enforce our beliefs on other cultures. I feel that it is a global, human rights issue! Plan uk state “It is every girl’s right to live safe from violence”. People anonymously surveyed in these groups have mainly voted against FGM. They wish they hadn’t had it done to them and they don’t want to do it to their daughters. It is seen as normal and just something you have to do and deal with to be prepared for womanhood and marriage.
What can we do! We can talk about it and share the video. The internet is a powerful resource and our message can reach all corners of the globe. Many of the countries that practise FGM it is illegal, but not enforced. Let our loud voice put pressure on those governments to make changes.
Coming back closer to home and girls at risk in the UK. FGM is illegal in this country as so taking a girl out of the country to perform it. If you are worried about a child who is at risk of FGM or has had FGM, you must share this information with social care or the police.
You can read more about FGM on the Plan UK website and follow the hashtag #FGMrose on twitter!