The 6th of February is the International Day of Zero Tolerance against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Sponsored by the United Nations, the day aims to increase awareness of the procedure and to campaign for it to be prohibited globally.
FGM is carried out on girls from infants to early teens for cultural reasons. FGM has no medical or health benefits, and can cause lifelong pain and significant trauma for survivors. The procedure involves the partial or total removal of the girl’s external genitalia, normally by a non-qualified member of the community and without anesthetic.
FGM is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a human rights violation along with being a severe form of child abuse. It is estimated that in Europe alone, 500,000 victims underwent the procedure and more than 125 million worldwide by 2015.
“137,000 women and girls affected by FGM, born in countries where FGM is practiced, were permanently resident in England and Wales in 2011 and that 10,000 girls aged under 15 and 24,000 women over 50, who have migrated to England and Wales are likely to have undergone FGM”.
An analysis of recent NHS statistics demonstrates that one case of female genital mutilation is either discovered or treated in England every hour. Between April 2015 and March 2016, there were 8,656 visits by women and girls to doctors’ surgeries or hospitals where the problems were deemed to be FGM related.
Stronger enforceable legislation supported by communities are essential for ending the practice. KMEWO is in the forefront of a campaign to galvanize the support of MP’s and the wider community.
Much work has been done by KMEWO and other campaigners so far to contribute to the elimination of the practice, including making it illegal, but a response on a criminal and judicial level has been lacklustre. Although the practice has been illegal since 1985 in the UK, there has not been a single successful prosecution. This failure has been branded a “national scandal” by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
There is still a lack of education and attention being directed at the issues of FGM within many communities and professionals from education and other key statutory departments. To address these problems the Government needs to make available more resources for equipping and training of qualified professionals.
KMEWO believes that in order to tackle this form of child abuse it must continue to focus on its community work. Through building up trust and providing empowerment to women and their children within Kurdish and Arabic speaking communities, KMEWO aims to change attitudes towards FGM and to break this cycle. KMEWO will continue to work with Mosques, Kurdish supplementary schools, primary schools and professionals from health and education sectors to raise awareness through education, networking with other women organizations and recognize the crucial role of men in this battle. Simultaneously teachers and authorities get trained in detecting and identifying girls who are vulnerable to FGM abuse.
Tanya Barron, Plan International UK’s chief executive, who analysed the FGM statistics, said: “These figures are once again a reminder of the global prevalence of FGM today. An estimated 200 million women and girls worldwide are affected.
“Across the UK and around the world, there’s more awareness than ever of the dangers of this practice, But FGM will only end if it is tackled globally, from the village halls of Mali and Sierra Leone to the classrooms of Britain”, she stated.
Sarah Champion, UK Shadow Secretary of State for Women, said until perpetrators are sentenced for child abuse, people will continue to think they can get away with it.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd added: “FGM is a devastating act of violence that no woman or girl should ever have to suffer and the criminals who perpetrate it should be brought to justice.”
For more information and for media interviews please contact:
Sawsan Salim (KMEWO Director)