What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female genital mutilation (FGM) involves procedures that alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical purposes. Health risks associated with FGM include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth and increased risk of death for newborns.
Where is it happening?
When I think of countries where female genital mutilation is occurring with impunity, metropolitan UK is not the first country that comes to mind when thinking of FGM, however this practice is inherent within their immigrant minority population. However, since 2009 about 4,000 women and girls have received medical care in London for FGM based on BBC data. Studies show, that about 66,000 British women and girls are victims of female genital mutilation.
UK’s policies surrounding FGM
FGM is illegal in Britain. The Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2003 replaced the 1985 ACT raising the maximum penalty from five to 14 years in prison. The FGM Act also made it a crime for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to practice FGM abroad even in countries where it is legal. No one in Britain has been prosecuted for the practice since 1985, despite more than 140 referrals of FGM made to the police during the last four years. This is disappointing when compared to other countries like France where there have been more than 100 successful FGM prosecutions.
How can FGM be adequately addressed?
As Britain is trying to tackle the issue of FGM, potential solutions to the issue need to be raised. I think that part of the solution to Britain’s gender rights violation issue lies in impunity of FGM crimes. Currently, a 17-year-old anti-FGM activist, Fahma Mohamed, gained national attention after her online petition to improve education about FGM gathered some 250,000 signatures, urging Britain to wake up to the prevalence of female genital mutilation in the country and speak out. There is a need for greater public awareness and education surrounding the issue of FGM, in order to prevent the normalization of brutal cultural practices. I think policies in the UK’s educational system should include a curriculum about FGM that not only brings awareness to the issue but also provides mental health services for the survivors. It is the responsibility of Britain’s government to protect its more vulnerable populations from horrific crimes, especially within its borders.
FGM WHO Fact Sheet: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/
Fahma Mohammad’s Video: