Female genital mutilation (FGM) describes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is not similar to male circumcision. Victims are usually aged between days old and adolescence.
Much like so-called ‘honour-based violence’ it demonstrates inequality between sexes and is an example of control ‘justified’ by perceived cultural and sometimes religious standards and expectations. It is associated with the idea of femininity and ideals of modesty and restraint: many families believe the practise is essential in the prevention of promiscuity and female libido. It is often explained as way of removing parts which perpetrators deem ‘unclean’. The overarching reason for performing such procedures is to make women and girls more appealing and more acceptable for men.
FGM occurs all over the world, including the UK. The vast majority of practise occurs in Africa and the Middle East; it is estimated there are currently more than 125 million girls and women alive who are victims of FGM.
FGM often not only causes injury to the victims but causes infection, severe bleeding, cysts, infertility, other physical complications and in some instances death.
Practitioners usually have that specific role in their community; families make their children available for the procedure.
“Since 1997, great efforts have been made to counteract FGM, through research, work within communities, and changes in public policy.
Progress at both international and local levels includes:
- wider international involvement to end FGM
- revised legal frameworks and growing political support to end FGM (this includes a law against FGM in 24 African countries, and in several states in two other countries, as well as 12 industrialized countries with migrant populations from FGM practicing countries)”
(World Health Organisation, 2013)
To report a case of FGM or for advice and help, you can contact:
Forward: safeguarding rights and dignity: www.forwarduk.org.uk
Daughters of Eve: www.dofeve.org
Durham Constabulary: 101 or, in an emergency 999
NSPCC: 0800 028 3550
Desert flower foundation: www.desertflowerfoundation.org/en/