Enough is enough: Sounding the alarm over female genital mutilation

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.

Factfile:

  • 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.

6 Comments

  1. Ameleen
    Posted 05/09/2011 at 01:35 | Permalink

    I only came actoss FGM recently, I had heard a few rhings about it before, but just accepted that its part of their tradition and culture. I dont think I ever came across the effect it would have until I came stumbled upon EOW website.

    I believe education is certainly the way forward to stopping or atleast reducing the number of practices.
    It’s a shame to see such a large number of girls/women being pressured just to fit into society. Hopefully, there will be more events and fund raisers to raise awareness all over the world.

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  2. Jackson
    Posted 20/06/2011 at 16:53 | Permalink

    A really good, challenging piece. 140 million girls? It’s just such an utterly, utterly unaccetable practice by any yardstick. I find it difficult to understand why anyone would defend this practice although I suspect some must, otherwise it would not be so rife.

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  3. Fatihiya
    Posted 13/06/2011 at 17:11 | Permalink

    The change begins now…….Its about time the community got together to listen to the voices of those who have been and are yet to be silent victims. Attitude change starts here as many who have suffered the consequences of this barbaric excercise finally speak out and sensitize the community about FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). Well done to the conference organizers, it will definitely be informative and educational.

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  4. amy
    Posted 09/06/2011 at 21:33 | Permalink

    Great article, FGM is something that needs to be less of a taboo subject, and its articles like this that help so much in opening up the subject.

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  5. Qudsia Malik
    Posted 08/06/2011 at 09:11 | Permalink

    A very touching account, hard to believe such a practise can occur, even today!

    The conference is very educational and an eye-opener. A lot of hard work has gone into organising such an event that can increase awareness and help others take action. I sincerely hope it will be supported by many.

    Please register for your free place today to attend via the website:
    http://www.evaorganizationforwomen.org/page62.html

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  6. Mohammed
    Posted 07/06/2011 at 14:45 | Permalink

    Let’s be really clear. This is an illegal cultural practice. It is not a religious requirement and those who present it as such are seeking to mislead. There is absolutely no place for this practice in today’s world.

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One Trackback

  1. […] can help together and that is surely a positive step in the right direction. Sadiyo has written an article on FGM which has been posted on Leicester Exchanges which has enabled the discussion to carry on […]

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