“I dream of blood,” states Binta Jobe who at aged nine, was taken by her family into a bush near her family home in Gambia and forced to undergo mutilation. This nightmare doesn’t just happen to girls in other countries, it’s happening in the UK too. There are an estimated 137,000 women and girls affected by FGM in England and Wales, 60,000 of those being girls under 15. Ten cases have recently been reported in Lancashire and multiple cases reported in Devon and Cornwall.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is recognised internationally as a major violation of human rights of women and girls. It is a severe form of sexism and a clear attack on the integrity of women, and the act is classified as torture in most legislation. The UK is one of the largest donors in the fight against FGM – five years ago, the government committed £35 million to eradicate the practice globally. The UK government also called to those working to end FGM in 2014, with a promise to match any funding from charity appeals.
This hasn’t been working. The NHS undertook 9,000 FGM cases in England in 2016 and there were more than 5,000 new cases of Female Genital Mutilation in the UK last year.
The damage that FGM inflicts can be lethal as well as psychologically traumatic. The repercussions of FGM include:
- The imminent risk of infection and/or death. This is usually a result of haemorrhaging during or immediately after the procedure, as the majority of operations are carried out by untrained women in non-sterile settings and can be done with broken glass.
- Increased chance of complications during childbirth. The harm inflicted on the reproductive system means that women are twice as likely to die in childbirth.
- Sexual dysfunction. Due to the physical trauma wreaked on the genitals, women who have been subjected to FGM typically experience pain during sex as well as severe psychological problems regarding sex.
- A lifetime of psychological damage. From anxiety disorders to intense fear and horror that plagues women long after the event. It is important that we help to give victims the confidence they need to cope with this mutation and speak out.
FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, though there has never been a successful prosecution, as victims are often afraid to speak out due to fear of physical abuse or death threats. The Sunday Times reported that 29-year-old British-Somalian woman received death threats, and a man she considered a friend had offered a hitman £500 to murder her.
Only recently, a father was banned from taking his six-year-old daughter out of the UK. The London judge stated that there were concerns that if he were to take his daughter to his home country, Guinea, there may be pressure to have the child mutilated, and Ms Justice Russell stated the order will remain until the girl turns 17.
Currently, the UK government have placed a firm time limit set on ending the crisis by 2030.
It is important that communities, families and professionals work together to reduce the numbers of those exposed to FGM.
Anyone who is concerned that a child is at risk of or has experienced FGM can speak to an NSPCC FGM helpline advisor on 0800 028 3550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Children can call Childline 24/7 on 0800 1111