Female genital mutilation (FGM) is deliberately cutting, damaging or changing the female genitals, without a medical reason. It can cause serious physical and psychological harm and is illegal in the UK. The 6th of February is International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
Why do we need a ‘zero tolerance’ for FGM?
More often than not, FGM is carried out by someone with no medical training using knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades. No anaesthetic or antiseptic is used. It often happens against a girl’s will or consent and can happen from infancy to 15 years of age.
There are absolutely zero health benefits to FGM, it is a wholly unnecessary procedure and can cause the following, long term effects:
· Constant pain
· Difficulty having intercourse
· Repeated infections
· Bleeding, cysts and abscesses
· Problems during childbirth and labour, which can be life threatening
FGM is illegal in this country and classed as child abuse. To reiterate, there are zero medical benefits to the procedure, it is wholly unnecessary.
Why is FGM carried out?
The process is often carried out because of the cultural or religious beliefs of a girl’s parents and family. It is more likely to happen to girls whose mothers and grandmothers have been mutilated, or whose fathers come from a community where mutilation is practiced. It is thought prepare girls for marriage and children.
Despite the fact that FGM is illegal in this country and classed as child abuse, some girls are (unknowingly) taken abroad for this procedure. They are more likely to be taken over the long summer break as there is more time to ‘heal’ afterwards.
What are the signs that FGM has taken place?
· Having difficulty walking, standing or sitting
· Spending longer in the bathroom or toilet
· Appearing quiet, anxious or depressed
· Acting differently after an absence from school or college
· Reluctance to go to the doctor or for routine medical appointments
· Asking for help, without being explicit about the problem, they scared or embarrassed
The good news is that in some areas there is a gradual decline in the practice, but there are still over 200 million women alive today who have been cut. (who.int). To read about the World Health Organisation’s response to FGM and their strategies to eliminate it, click here.
If you’d like more information on FGM, you can visit the NHS website here.
You can also find information on FGM on the NSPCC’s website here.