Sadiyo Siad, PhD Student, University of Leicester
“Let me be normal; normal like any other girl in the neighbourhood… Imagine you are just 10 years of age, and your friends wouldn’t play with you because you haven’t been done (I mean The Cut)? You are the last girl in the neighbourhood who hasn’t been done yet.
When you come outside to play, you find your ‘friends’ in small groups and they are whispering, giggling and looking at you. You pretend that nothing is bothering you while you are dying inside. You start to play with the skipping rope. Leyla says: “Gross, you smell. How awkward is it that you haven’t been done yet? Then Seynab says: “Yeah you are unclean and stink”. The rest laugh.
They talk about how painful it is. That you shouldn’t drink a lot of water to avoid urinating because it is painful, and that you need to tie your legs together to avoid any loosening or opening of the virginity. You don’t care how painful it is. Every girl goes through it; this is the way it is. This is what normal is.
You asked over and over again for your mum to get the midwife to do the procedure, and when you have finally lost your patience your mum takes you to see the midwife. You just want to have your friends back. You want to play with them so much. You just want them to allow you to be one of them, to feel like you exist. All you want to be is normal… Normal like any other girl in the neighbourhood.”
This story is just a glimpse of many other stories of this painful reality, which has helped to lead us to this moment in time. It is time to realise deep in our heart that enough is enough. Female genital cutting (FGC) also known as female genital mutilation (FGM) is primarily a cultural practice which involves the removal of all or just part of the external parts of the female genitalia. It is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
There are four types of FGM practised today but all four are extremely painful and puts girls and women at risk of getting intense pain and/or haemorrhage that can lead to shock during and after the procedure; haemorrhage which can also lead to anaemia; wound infection, including tetanus; urine retention from swelling and/or blockage of the urethra; psychological effects from anxiety to severe depression and psychosomatic illnesses; and even death.
Girls as young as 2 months of age undergo the procedure and their parents believe that they are acting in their children’s best interest because the procedure preserves the girl’s virginity and chastity; gives social acceptance – especially for marriage; upholds the family honour and helps to be clean and hygienic. It is not, as some outside the tradition might think, just a blind following of culture that prompts people to have this done to their children. It is rather a sincere belief that it is the right thing to do. I feel strongly that this belief must be treated with respect when addressing the issue of misinformation that surrounds this issue.
Whatever the reasons for doing it, FGM creates massive health problems for girls and women experiencing it. It is a highly sensitive cultural issue that is rarely discussed and there are 140 million girls and women worldwide who are currently living with its devastating consequences. Girls across the world are suffering, and dying in some cases, due to this ‘futile’ act. The way forward is education, community dialogue and a balanced view of FGM.
Sadiyo Siad is a PhD Student at the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, University of Leicester. Sadiyo is spearheading a campaign to highlight the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) through a national conference at the University of Leicester on 18 June to highlight the impact on victims and to provoke discussion on the issue.
- At least 26 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, a few countries in the Middle East and Asia practice FGM. Somalia, Egypt and Sudan are at the top of the list. Despite its illegality, immigrants from these countries to Europe, North America, and Australia are still practicing FGM.
- An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the often devastating consequences of FGM. 92 million of these are in Africa.
- 3 million girls still undergo FGM each year worldwide.
- 66,000 UK women have undergone FGM (2001 Census Figures), and at least 22,000 UK girls are considered as being at risk of enforced FGM.