Ever Heard Of FGM?

Its a fair bet that women will understand the initials FGM far more than men, mainly because it concerns them even though it is carried out by men. Confused? Never mind, FGM stands for female genitalia mutilation and is carried out in many countries to female children and adults.

FGM In Africa

FGM In Africa

Sometimes the reason for this is religious, and in other cases because it’s tradition, but either way the victim has no say in what happens to them. It is generally carried out on infants and girls up to the age of fifteen, but is occasionally inflicted on women after childbirth or marriage.

FGM In Practice

FGM In Practice

The actual procedure calls for the removal of the clitoris or labia, the narrowing of the vaginal opening; or piercing, scraping and burning of the genital area. This is more often than not carried out without anaesthetics, using knives, scissors, razor blades and, in some instances, even shards of glass. Normally the patient will be held down by three or four women while the ‘practitioner’ carries out the procedure.

To say that this is barbaric is without doubt an understatement, but the practice is widespread and not restricted to any single country or religion. It is most prevalent in Africa but also in Muslim countries of the Middle East, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but it happens in Christian countries also.

In many other countries it is down to pure tradition. The practice of female genital mutilation dates back at least 2,000 years and was used in ancient Egypt as a sign of distinction amongst the aristocracy. In some cultures, it is valued as a rite of passage from childhood to womanhood but others believe it is a means of preserving a girl’s virginity until marriage. In most countries that still practice it FGM is a pre-requisite for marriage, with marriage being vital to a woman’s social and economic survival.

Within the Muslim faith Imams have been known to say that a woman does not have the right to enjoy sex with a man, although there is nothing to substantiate this in the Qur’an. They say a woman is born for the sole purpose to serve her master and bear his children.

FGM-women-who-have-been-cut-1024x887It is estimated that around 680,000 women and children have suffered this in Europe alone, and world-wide estimates by UNICEF put the figure at 125 million.

Statistics indicate that the United Kingdom, with 137,000 known cases, has twice as many such cases as any other country in Europe. France comes next with 61,000 cases followed by Italy, Holland, Germany, Austria and Belgium. These mutilations are restricted solely to immigrant families.

The tragic part about this whole affair is the lack of legal action against the perpetrators of this vile act. Only recently Britain made its first ever prosecution against British doctor Dhanuson Dharmasena, but he was this week acquitted of carrying out FGM on a new mother in London.

Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena

Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena

At his trial it came out that Doctor Dharmasena had to put in a stitch to stop a woman bleeding after emergency labour. The woman had previously suffered FGM when she was a child in Somalia. The doctors lawyer made the following statement: “My client strongly believes this case was nothing more than a show trial – an effort by the CPS to regain some confidence after failing to bring a prosecution despite FGM laws being in place since 1985.”

However, it would seem that the law in Europe is finally waking up to this scandal. European Commission figures to January 2012 show that in France 40 men have so far been charged, with six in Spain, two in Italy and Sweden, and the Netherlands and Denmark with one each. Pitifully few when you consider the number of children and women who have been brutalized.

Now why you may ask have so few been charged, well, in the UK the problem is that the police do not investigate such cases. The UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee (HAC) said,  “The police and others told us two factors contributed to the small number of investigations — a reliance on victims or witnesses to report to the police, which they are unlikely to do, and the failure of health, education and social care professionals to refer cases to the police where they suspect FGM to have taken place.”

One would imagine with this mutilation being as common as it is both the Social Services, Health Authorities and the Police would do more to bring charges against the individuals responsible. Any doctor who finds evidence of this practice during a routine examination should be duty bound to report it.

Tools Of The Trade

Tools Of The Trade

The HAC said in its report,  “A key feature of the French system is the use of regular medical check-ups on children up to the age of six, which includes examination of the genitals. The system is not mandatory, though receipt of social security is dependent on participation. Furthermore, girls identified as being at risk of FGM are required to have medical examinations every year, and whenever they return from abroad.”

It would appear that France has got its act together before any other European nation. We can only hope that more will follow their lead and put an end to this vile practice.


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