Research and Admin Intern, Stacey Wood, discusses the problems surrounding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) prevention.
Two weeks ago MPs claimed that social workers and police were anxious to tackle the issue of FGM through a fear of being seen as politically incorrect. It’s this trepidation which defines the difficulty in tackling an issue which is a cultural norm in many societies in Africa but also constitutes what must be recognised as a form of gender-based violence. 140 million women and girls worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM, of which 101 million are estimated to be in Africa.
FGM involves the removal of external female genitalia and other types of injury to the female genital organs for non-medical purposes. There are four distinct types of FGM that ranging in severity. FGM is often justified through a combination of social, economic and political reasons. These include ensuring marriage, protecting the family reputation and limiting sexual behaviour. Specifically, in the Maasai community FGM marks a girl’s progression into womanhood and marks their ‘sexual debut’. The key fact in the ‘what’s’ and ‘whys’ is that FGM has no medical benefit whatsoever. FGM causes medical problems such as pain, infection, haemorrhaging, bleeding, increased risk of STI’s, not to mention the emotion stress. There is no choice given, FGM is generally practiced on girls in the age range of 4-13 who are often tricked or not informed that this is going to happen to them. This demonstrates clearly why FGM must be recognised as gender-based violence and a serious violation of women’s and girls’ human rights.
One of the biggest tools we have in combating the practice of FGM is dialogue. Building bridges between communities and public services and facilitating the sharing of information and the network of community support against the abuse of FGM. A brilliant example of this is AI’s two year project in partnership with CSRC in Ghana that aims to develop women’s advocacy skills, better placing them to make decisions on their welfare and even that of their daughters. It’s this kind of work that massively contributes to filtering out misconceptions of FGM and empowers women to take a stand against it.