25 January 2013

In November 2012, the UN approved a worldwide ban on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation.

Guest blog by Wafa Farah, Journalist student at Hull Art & Design School. 

The World Health Organisation reports about 140 million girls and women are currently living with the consequence of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The practice of FGM  is over a 2000 year old cultural tradition, which requires the cutting or the removal of the external genitals. FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age fifteen, this can vary with culture.

Prevailing in twenty eight African countries, some Middle Eastern and Asian communities. This practice has reached  refugee and asylum seeker communities within Europe, Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia.

There are four main types:

  • Clitoridectomy: Clitoris or clitoral hood is cut off
  • Infibulation:  Clitoris, inner and outer lips are removed and the remaining skin is stitched or sealed leaving a small opening
  • Intermediate: Clitoris and inner lips are removed
  • Other harmful procedures:  Including piercing, pricking, stretching, scraping, burning, cutting and introducing corrosives/herbs

There are no health benefits from FGM, the instant effects of this would be:

  • Shock
  • Serve pain
  • Bacterial infections; due to the lack of sanitation by using kitchen knives,  razors , scissors and pieces of glass
  • Haemorrhaging

Long term complications would be:

  • Reoccurring bladder and urinary tract infections
  • Infertility
  • Cysts; a closed sac of fluids, solid and air substance
  • Increased risk of HIV and AIDS
  • Mental health problems: anxiety, extreme depression and trauma
  • Problems with sexuality and during sex
  • Complications, and sometimes death, in pregnancy and childbirth including obstructed labour due to reduced opening, or incontinence due to fistula (tears in bladder or rectum)

The practice of FGM is not compulsory by any religious holy book; these are the following reason of this practice:

  • Promoting cultural identity
  • Protecting tradition and religious values
  • Preserving virginity, chastity and family honour
  • Preparing for becoming a woman & assisting in enabling a good marriage

On 28th November 2012, the United Nations Member States have permitted the first ever draft resolution intended on terminating the detrimental practice of FGM, an action that is highly welcomed by Secretary General Ban Ki- moon as an exceeding step forward in protecting millions of women and girls.

The document was accepted by consensus by the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which manages with social, humanitarian and cultural issues, and will be instigated on by the next Assembly meeting.

Fadumo Hussein, mother of seven underwent FGM  just after her fifteen birthday.  “My mother told me I was going to be a woman,as she was saying this, she seemed uncomfortable and distressed. Women from my family’s tribe were gathering in the living room and kitchen. I thought this was because of my birthday was recent and hoped for a late diirac (Somalian dress).  Then my mother told me to wash, to be purified.  Fadumo suffered the intermediate stage, which entailed the removal of the clitoris and inner lips.  I was screaming, pleading, no begging my mother to stop this woman. They did not care just holding me down, nearly lasted for an hour. Then, they bound my thighs to my ankles. My mother cautiously came into my bed and hugged me, told me she refused for her daughter to go through this; however my father had the last say. I would never let my daughters suffer through this, just the story and I am glad.”

The National Health Service can provide a reversal surgery; to open up the lower vagina, however cannot restore sensitive tissue that has been removed.  Reversal surgery can be essential for women who are forsaken to have intercourse as the vagina is too narrow. Some pregnant women who have undergone female genital mutilation will be required to have their lower vagina opened up prior to labour enabling a safer birth.

FGM heightens the risk of the vagina severing during delivery, which results in damage and can lead to heavy bleeding. In addition, the increase risk of the baby dying during, or just after birth.  Reversal surgery is as its optimum before pregnancy, or at least within the second trimester of pregnancy; around 12 and 36 weeks.

Charity organisations are the forefront of conveying the harmful act of FGM to the public and lobbying to the people who able to make this an effective worldwide ban.

28 Too Many is one of several charities dedicated to anti-FGM.  They are a registered charity, created to help end FGM in the UK & the 28 African countries where it’s still practised.  Founded in 2010& based on the values of justice, compassion, and the universal right to equality & health, they take a culturally sensitive stance stand against FGM.

Founder of 28 Too Many, Ann-Marie, says:  “Wanting to move to the not-for-profit sector, I set up my own consultancy firm and ran it for 10 years. In 1999, I took a sabbatical and had my first taste of overseas aid work in Indo-China. I downsized my role and worked from 2001-4 at 75% then 50%, before leaving for short term aid assignments in 2004. During those three years I was in Kosovo, Uganda, Kenya and Sudan. It was in North Sudan I met an eleven year old who had been raped at age ten, and now had a baby. Having had FGM, she would have died in the bush because of obstructed labour.

“Meeting her was a pivotal moment. I did more study in 2005-6 in USA/Asia, then finished off my Psychology Doctorate before going to study Cross-Cultural and Development studies, anthropology, and Islamics. “I spent time with Somalis through an intern-ship in an internally displaced peoples (IDP) camp in 2008, home to 250,000 people on the Kenya/Somali Border, working in the gender based violence unit (GBV). There I was managing cases and teaching 250 people who were committed to stand up against FGM, the committees against violence (CAV). This included skills in advocacy, reproductive health (HIV Aids, STIs, anti-FGM) and anti GBV/VAW topics (early forced marriage, boy child preference etc). I have also learnt anatomy/physiology through helping birth babies in Pakistan and then worked in Nigeria in a fistula rehabilitation centre. I then felt ready to launch this organisation and aim to make this my life purpose for the next season of my life”.

To stop one girl is cut every 10 seconds:

You can donate securely via Paypal on our website, or by cheque made out to 28 Too Many or by bank transfer; email for bank details/postal address for cheques.