Warning: Sensitive and graphic description below.
I was carrying out some research a few weeks ago on FGM for some uni work and I was pretty taken a back by my discoveries.
Female genital mutilation also known as FGM is the deliberate mutilation of the female genitalia. In simpler terms it means cutting or removing parts of the vagina; the clitoris and labia. I think for a lot of us here in the UK it’s very easy to turn a blind eye to the things that we believe don’t affect us, the things we’re oblivious to or simply the things we are ignorant about. Whilst many of us have heard of it before, others may have not.
I decided to write an article on FGM for university. It’s been something I have been aware of since my early teens. I have watched a few documentaries on it and I personally know some women who have been through the ordeal. Upon my research, what shocked me the most was According to organisation daughters of Eve, 23,000 girls in the UK each year get cut. YES! In the UK. This isn’t referring to young girls who are being taken to their home countries by family to have the procedure done, this is talking about girls here in the UK. So can you see this is a lot closer to home than we think. Not to mention the other 3 million girls worldwide having this done each year.
So why does it happen? From my understanding it is seen as tradition in some cultures to enter womanhood, while some try to justify it through religion. It is also believed to improve fertility but often does the opposite. FGM survivors are prone to infection and diseases and difficulty during childbirth. Either way it is a barbaric act, putting it lightly and has no grounds to stand on to ever be acceptable.
FGM is prevalent in many African and Middle Eastern countries. Statistics show that in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Niger & Chad more than half of the women have had their genitals cut. Whilst 26-50% per cent of women in Ivory coast and Liberia have been cut. That is A LOT! But that is just west Africa alone. FGM is a common practice in many other central and Eastern African countries also.
Whilst speaking to a young lady who didn’t want to be named, she expressed to me that her culture practices FGM and that her mum is an FGM survivor. She feels it all stems back to us living in a patriarchal society that tries to police women and their sexuality. She believes FGM is done so that sex for a woman is only to reproduce and not for pleasure.
Some FGM survivors have their clitoris cut off. Others have had their vaginal opening narrowed with a seal which is formed by cutting and sewing over the outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris or inner labia. Usually a small hole is left to pass urine and menstrual fluid. Not only does this completely remove pleasure from sex it makes harder for the young woman to take part in sexual inter course without severe pain. Furthermore it causes a lot complications during childbirth in which the seal then has to be removed.
Often a lot of the objects used to carry out FGM are usually dangerous and unclean and can cause infections. The NHS website states that scissors, blades and broken glass are often used to carry it out. With NO anaesthesia. All in all it is a pretty gruesome and excruciating experience.
Not only does it cause complications with sexual intercourse and childbirth there is the psychological and emotional aspect of things. It is a very traumatic experience that can leave a mental scar on its survivors. Some women get flashbacks of the ordeal or even suffer from anxiety whenever they have a partner they want to become intimate with. It doesn’t just stop at being cut but there is a lot of other complications that follow.
I would watch documentaries on FGM almost a decade ago not completely understanding it but it’s so disheartening to know that in 2016 people still don’t want to let this horrific act go. This is damaging young women and girls. Leaving them with scars that may never be healed. When you think about the female parts, it is so delicate and sensitive. Why inflict so much pain and anguish upon young girls for reasons that are not even concrete. Reasons that don’t even make any sense.
I decided to write this to spread awareness. You may have never heard of FGM or you may even know someone who has been affected. It is a very sensitive topic that people do not want to speak about due to humiliation and shame but the more we speak about it the more we are raising awareness. Maybe speaking out on your experience may help someone else who is going through something similar. In addition the more we speak out against FGM we can slowly try to change the attitudes towards it. It cannot be justified through culture or religion it is just unacceptable. FGM is illegal in the UK, a form of child abuse and a human rights violation. Anyone who performs FGM can face up to 14 years in prison. Let’s protect our girls and spread the message ‘Don’t cut her’.
For more information on FGM and how to make a difference click the links below: