Today is International day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation or #endFGM for the hashtag generation.
This is a subject area that has interested me and I am always seeking new forums to further my knowledge.
Last Summer’s bold portray on the emotional turmoil of a teenager who was a victim of FGM, brought the conversation to the stage. It also relayed the message that it is girls just like you and I who could be affected by such practice, a burden we carry into womanhood.
To discuss and enhance my views on the FGM issue today I attended FGM hub which was held at the offices of Southwark Council. I had an insightful conversation with Shani from the ‘Africa Advocacy Foundation’ whose passionate display of information and understanding of such a dark practice made the sheer importance of highlighting the issue even more evident.
What is FGM?
Which is also known as female circumcision is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but where there’s no medical reason for this to be done.
It’s also known as “female circumcision” or “cutting”, and by other terms such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, among others. – (NHS, 2016).
Who Does It Affect?
Worldwide between 100- 200million women, from infant to adult age have been affected (World Health Organisation)
The Highest number of women affected are of African Origin….
(Unicef 2004 – 2015 data)
Whilst in London it affects
1 in 40 women in Lewisham
1 in 30 women in Lambeth
And shockingly 1 in 20 women in Southwark
(City of London via African Advocacy Foundation)
Why is it Done?
There are various reasons why it is carried out. Some believe it is more hygienic. Others believe it is a tool used to assure fidelity in women, make them more virginal or to control their pleasure (or lack of) during sex.
FGM and Your Period
One of the most shocking things about FGM that people never mention is the impact it can have on your period.
There are four types of ‘cutting’ see here however, stage three is the severest which is known as Infibulation which narrows the vaginal opening by creating cutting and sewing over the outer labia (or vaginal lips) with or without removing the clitoris.
There is a hole left at the bottom for the passing of urine and mensuration blood. The scarring means that periods are often prolonged and extreme pain is felt.
Moreover, the hole itself tends to be too small for sexual intimacy and childbirth (doeve.org) meaning the vaginal will eventually have to be cut up in the future.
Help and Support
The experience is not only painful it exposes women and young girls to ongoing health risk and even death. Also, there is a psychological impact after such a procedure with many women feeling shame, depression and isolation it is important that services that provide emotional, physical and advocacy support are highlighted in as many platforms as possible.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 999.
If you are worried that this may happen in the future to you or someone you know please speak to a teacher, school, doctor – someone you trust.