6th Feb 2016 – International Zero Tolerance of FGM

endfgm-logo-englishresize-jpg_ArticleLandscapeCropAs you may know, on ‘let’s talk!’ we raise awareness of the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and tomorrow marks another important stage in the process to end FGM worldwide. The theme of this year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM theme is around aiming to achieve global goals of eliminating FGM by 2030.

Today, Avon & Somerset Constabulary, made a statement, confirming their commitment to the campaign and updated us on the steps taken locally.

Police & Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens is quoted as saying:

“Tackling domestic and sexual abuse, which includes FGM, is a priority for me and I welcome the continued collective effort being made to focus on the issue and help protect the women and girls at risk of this most intrusive and damaging practice.

“Even before the reporting of FGM became mandatory, a lot of work has taken place to train health care professionals and teachers in recognising the signs of this horrific crime. I welcome both the efforts to raise awareness of this form of child abuse and the changes in legislation to safeguard those known and at risk of FGM.

“I am very clear that FGM is child abuse and must be treated as such. We must never lose sight that FGM is a violation of human rights that has lifelong health and emotional consequences. Working together we must eradicate this disgraceful crime for good.”

It was good to read that the following action has already been taken within the force:

  • The training of up to 80 Somerset GPs on FGM awareness and obligations surrounding mandatory reporting.
  • Having trained professionals working in the areas of safeguarding and mental health in Somerset
  • Being part of a focus group advising staff from the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office re what is working well and not so well in tackling FGM
  • Supported day-long multi-agency enhanced training commissioned by the Bristol Safeguarding Children’s Board (BSCB)
  • Help to train officers and detectives with the States of Jersey Police on how they can use their existing legislation to help children at risk of FGM
  • Attendamce at an event organised by Bristol University’s Feminist Society, in conjunction with the Integrate Bristol charity, to increase FGM awareness, which was attended by an audience including trainee teachers, doctors and lawyers

We will obviously be keeping an eye on progress and hope that, even before 2030, this barbaric procedure is banned worldwide.

Eradicating FGM – some good news

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Here at The Terrace we have always supported the worldwide campaign to eradicate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM, or female circumcision, involves the removal of the clitoris and the stitching shut of a girl’s genitals, and is done for non-medical reasons. The practise is illegal in the United Kingdom, but many young girls are taken abroad to countries where it has not yet been banned.

The procedure is traditionally carried out by a woman, in a grossly abusive way – rarely with anaesthetic, cut by razor blades, knives or scissors for example – and often with a young girl, barely into puberty or younger, physically restrained. They can then be subject to ongoing health problems, such as tetanus, gangrene, HIV, hepatitis B and C and it can make childbirth incredibly difficult.

We have frequently written about FGM here on let’s talk!, updating readers with news and highlighting work being done to raise awareness and ensure girls here are safeguarded, so we were pleased to hear that the president of Gambia has banned the practise of FGM (although it has not yet been reported when the necessary legislation will be drafted to enforce the decision). Gambia was one of the 29 countries on the continent of Africa to still allow FGM.

It is reported that almost 80 per cent of women and girls have undergone FGM in Gambia, with the majority of claiming they were forced to undergo the procedure owing to an interpretation of Islam that required it. President Yahya Jammeh’s announcement is particularly iportant as he has now claimed Islam, which is the majority religion in Gambia, does not insist that a girl be cut.

There is still a lot of concern about the implementation, however. In rural areas of Gambia the overwhelming majority of women are subjected to FGM and enforcement would be difficult, but a surge in publicity and exposure of the practise has seemingly forced the president’s hand.

The Sculpted – a brave & shocking film about FGM…

CaptureAs regular readers of this blog might remember, we at The Terrace have always supported the campaign against the practice of Female Genial Mutilation (FGM). Figures recently released suggest the number of girls coming forward for support has increased significantly, but the procedure, also called ‘cutting’ or female circumcision, continues. It has been illegal in Britain for many years, but girls and young women are still abused in this way, often take abroad to have their external genitals partially or wholly removed. This results in painful sex and exceptionally difficult, and dangerous, labour and childbirth.

So when we saw this short film, made by student film-makers Ellie Jones and Miholyn Soon, from Westminster University we wanted to share it to highlight the cruelty of the practice. It  ‘deals with the intimate thoughts of a young girl about to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). It follows the internal monologue of a girl who never actually speaks, and uses creative imagery to illustrate the cruelty of the cut’.

It is available to view via The Guardian website HERE

It has been screened at Campus MovieFest in Hollywood and is a valuable addition to the campaign for a worldwide ban within a generation. Do take a look  – it just 4 minutes long and deeply moving…

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): It is, simply, child abuse.

Female-circumcision-006On the 14th March The Guardian reported that for the first time a doctor will stand trial in Egypt on charges of female genital mutilation (FGM).  13-year-old Sohair al-Bata’a died following an alleged operation in his clinic last year. FGM has been banned in Egypt since 2008 but may doctors still carry out the operation on a private basis, as parents see it as an acceptable ‘rite of passage’ for their daughters.

How much do you know about FGM?  The work of charities and the government is raising awareness, but it is still a practice that remains safely hidden in many local communities. Female genital mutilation  is actually  a form of child abuse which damages girls and women, both physically and mentally by using a procedure  which The World Health Organization (WHO) describes as one that involves ‘ partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’ (WHO, 2013). Communities practising FGM cite  reasons for its use such as social acceptance, family honour, marriageability or even the mistaken belief that it makes childbirth easier.  However, even a brief reading of the research undertaken on the subject tells of the short term  risk of shock, bleeding, infections and damage to nearby organs; as well as the possibility of death. Longer term effects  include very painful sex, abscesses, complications in pregnancy and, contrary to cultural belief, a greater risk of childbirth dangerous to mother and child. Psychological damage is common; in one study 80% of women  who had undergone and FGM procedure suffered from depression or anxiety disorders.

In Britain it is a criminal offence under the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act to ‘perform FGM or to assist a girl to perform FGM on herself’. It can incur a maximum prison term of fourteen years, but prosecution seems low in comparison to the potential numbers of girls and women involved.  Most families do not see FGM as abuse and might accuse anyone intervening of being discriminatory. We must not shirk our responsibilities towards these girls.

We support the charity NSPCC both locally in the South West and nationally, in its campaign to stop this barbaric practice. The technique is  ‘traditionally carried out by a female with no medical training, without anaesthetics or antiseptic treatments, using knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades’ (NHS Choices 2013). The girl is sometimes forcibly restrained, held down even by a parent. FGM is usually carried out on girls between infancy and age 15, but the majority of cases occur between the ages of 5 and 8 years. Can you imagine the distress that must cause? Research has identified that tens of thousands of women in Britain live with the debilitating consequences of FGM and more than 20,000 young girls may be at risk. The crime is hidden, so figures are hard to establish, but these numbers may very well be much higher.

Communities in more than 28 African countries practise FGM, along with countries in the Middle East and Asia. The NHS has found that particular cities in the UK have more incidences of FGM, including London, Cardiff, Manchester, Sheffield, Northampton, Birmingham, and Oxford. But nowhere is immune.

The NSPCC has established a free 24-hour FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 or its email at  fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk should you or someone you know be concerned that a child be at risk of FGM. After seven months the helpline had already received more than 150 calls.

forwardIf you would like to know more about FGM, go to the World Health Organisation website for full details,  or take a look at the wonderful Forward ( Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development) site. It makes horrifying reading. It is too late for Sohair al-Bata’a, but not for the thousands of girls at risk in this country. Whether we are parents or not we owe it to them to ensure this abuse is ended.