Approximately 20,000 young women from the UK and France are considered to be ‘at risk’ for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a painful and unnecessary act of violence that robs them of their ability to feel any sexual pleasure as well as causes serious complications to their health.
FGM is a practice that originated in ancient ceremonies that were performed by Afro-Asiatic people who lived within the Red Sea area. It is a procedure that involves cutting off part or all of the labia, clitoris and other female external genitalia.
It is often carried out on girls from a few days old up until puberty. Sometimes the surgery takes place in a hospital but other times it is performed, without any anaesthesia, by a practitioner who uses a razor, knife or scissors.
This practice is deeply rooted in gender inequality and the feeling that a woman’s sexuality needs to be controlled.
The procedure takes away all female sexual pleasure, which is believed to stop women from cheating on their partners and having premarital sex. It is considered by those who practice it to be an essential part of raising a girl properly.
In some societies, women who have not had the procedure are considered to be unclean and are not permitted to handle food or water for others. There is also the belief that the clitoris is dangerous and will kill a man if it touches his penis or kill a baby if it touches it while being born.
Not only is the procedure incredibly painful, it also has devastating effects on the health of the victim. A woman who has been mutilated has a higher risk of vaginal infections, urinary infections, chronic pain, fertility issues, epidermoid cysts, fatal haemorrhaging and complications during childbirth.
Sometimes the vaginal opening is sewn up so tightly that when the woman is giving birth she has to be cut open once again. This increases the complications with childbirth and can be very dangerous for both mother and baby.
Female Genital Mutilation is practiced mainly in 28 countries around the world, including north-eastern Africa, some parts of Asia and the Middle East. An estimate by the World Health Organization states that approximately 140 million women and girls around the world have experienced this painful procedure.
FGM is a problem within the UK and there are thousands of young girls who are at risk for this every year. The laws within the UK that make Female Genital Mutilation illegal were introduced back in the mid 1980s, the same time as they were in France. However, although 100 practitioners of the procedure in France were prosecuted, there has not been one prosecution in the UK. Families and private practitioners are continuing to perform mutilations on young girls on UK soil.
Plan UK is working to eradicate FGM once and for all and save women and girls from becoming victims of this terrible act of violence. Visit www.plan-uk.org to find out more about Female Genital Mutilation.