5 October 2010

FGM: sadly happening in a neighbourhood near you

Having got back in the summer from working for 8 weeks in a fistula (incontinence) rehab centre in Northern Nigeria, one might think I’d be away from the issues of FGM in the UK. Not so. My first day home I was greeted over breakfast with a Guardian article on FGM in Kurdish Iraq complete with video clip of the circumciser explaining that for over 20 years she has practised FGM on 500 girls.

Closer to home, in August in the Guardian a 12 year old talks of being subjected to FGM over her summer holidays. It is believed 500-2000 British school girls will have had FGM either abroad or in the UK at ‘cutting parties’ this summer.

A month ago a labour MP asked in Question Time what resources the government using to enforce the 2003 Act against FGM. Over the last 7 years there have been no prosecutions, although investigates are up, often failing as the child is too young to give evidence or the community is too scared to discuss their roles.

There was a controversial ‘Women’s Hour’ a couple of weeks ago, where FGM was discussed before a review of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and other current topics. A group of girls from Bristol discussed a drama about FGM they had written on how to bring out a subject that is normally taboo – hoping it might raise awareness for younger siblings, boys (future husbands) and girls at risk. The key character, 13 year old ‘Yasmin’ was modelled on the girls’ own or close friends’ real experience.

A DCI gave the police perspective on why it’s so hard to get the balance of working with communities and prosecuting legal violations. A recent march in Bristol stated they would investigate all cases and prosecute where they could. He added, ‘FGM cutting parties’ were growing in popularity as they are cheaper than airfares abroad and families share the cost of the circumciser visiting the UK.

Agency for Culture Change discussed that in France at risk girls are ‘checked’ at school and in Sweden they are ‘examined’ at airports. I feel these examinations are too intrusive, and violate the rights of girls who have already endured so much.

FORWARD UK where I have volunteered since Sept 2009, estimates there are over 66,000 women in the UK who have had FGM and 7000 annually at risk of FGM in the UK.

If you feel strongly about this issue, email us to find out how you can get involved. Or you could add a comment on the blog, write to your MP or donate to the work I do to help eliminate this practice.