Raising awareness of FGM is half the battle

Raising awareness of FGM is half the battle

Posted on Jul 06, 2016
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Raising awareness of FGM Is half the battle

 

 

An agonising choice

On the 30th June 2016, The Economist published an article entitled ‘An Agonising Choice’. This article suggested that, despite 30 years of attempting to eradicate FGM, it continues and it's now time to try a ‘new approach’.

The World Health Organisation states that:

‘Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It has no health benefits and harms girls and women in many ways.’

 

Prevalence of FGM

The heat map below demonstrates the prevalence of FGM in the countries where it’s most common.

Prevalence of FGM

 *Source: Unicef

There are an estimated 137,000 women and girls with FGM in England and Wales. You can read more about who is most at risk within England and Wales here.

 

New approach

The ‘new approach’ that the (unnamed) writer of An Agonising Choice suggests is instead of trying to stamp out FGM entirely, governments should ban the worst forms and permit those that cause no long-lasting harm. They also suggest these governments should try to persuade parents to choose the least nasty version, or, none at all.

The article states that between 1985 and 2015 the countries where FGM is most common saw the number of girls cut fall from 51% to 37%. And that this progress has been ‘slow’.

‘However distasteful, it is better to have a symbolic nick from a trained health worker than to be butchered in a back room by a village elder.’

A letter condemning the “dangerous and entirely unfounded” article was sent to the Economist last week by Orchid Project and ActionAid. It has been signed by Forward, 28 Too Many, Womankind and Plan UK.

 

Grossly Irresponsible

London-based FGM charity Orchid Project has called the article “grossly irresponsible” and has also started a petition calling for the Economist to retract its position on FGM.

When asked about it, Julia Lalla-Maharajh, the CEO of Orchid Project said the following:

“Working on taboo and neglected issues like ending FGM is hard enough without well-respected publications like the Economist creating policy on the hoof and taking a line that puts our discussions back by decades. It discredits the experiences of women who have undergone FGM and is a highly regressive step.”

The issue with this article is that it completely diminishes the severity of the practice, and almost endorses the abuse. No forms of female genital mutilation, be them perceived as 'minor,' 'slight,' or ‘preventative' are ever acceptable, nor should they be excused in any way, shape or form.

Deeming any type of FGM as ‘minor’ undoes all the hard work and effort people have given to raising awareness, changing laws, and educating countries and communities to understand the real damage this practice does to the girls and women that are subjected to it.

If people fully understand the long-term physical and mental effects of FGM, they would not make light of it, and suggest that a ‘symbolic nick’ is acceptable.

 

What can you do?

Educating your staff and raising awareness of FGM in your setting is paramount. Offering training is the best way of doing this. You also need to ensure your staff know what to do should they suspect a child or pupil is in danger of, or has been a victim of FGM.

Some FGM charities have also suggested that the issue of FGM is discussed with pupils themselves in PSHE classes, as these are mandatory and it’s very unlikely pupils parents will request their daughter be removed from the class (as opposed to discussing the subject in something like a sex-ed class, where parents can request their daughters are removed).

FGM training

If you are worried that a child may be at risk of FGM, you can contact NSPCC 24-hour helpline anonymously on 0800 028 3550 or email them on fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk.

For more information on FGM and for alternative helplines please click here

 

Related articles

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What is FGM - Comparing FGM to male circumcision What is FGM - Comparing FGM to male circumcision

How to spot the signs and indicators of someone at risk of FGM How to spot the signs and indicators of someone at risk of FGM

Reporting cases of FGM (female genital mutilation) among children becomes mandatory Reporting cases of FGM (female genital mutilation)

 

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