Ever since I watched the biographical Film Desert Flower following the experiences of Waris DirieI feel very passionate about the subject of FGM. Female genital mutilation is defined by the WHO as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” This procedure has a long tradition in Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa, and to some extend in the Middle East and Asia. FGM is done on female children by the so called cutters who perform it without aesthetic and often only with a sharp razor or even a sharp piece of glass on children ranging in age from few weeks to puberty. The families, even the mothers who have undergone this torture, consider this an honour and take pride in this tradition.
In order to preserve the innocence by reduction of female sexual desire, and to secure the marriageability of the females their clitoris and labia have to be removed. Then the child is sawn together with a needle or another sharp object (without anaesthetics). The women are cut open on her wedding night by her husband (or a midwife) and during her labour. After childbirth the women are again sawn together.
There are a lot of complications following FGM. The immediate one is the fatal bleeding, followed by multiple types of infections. The WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA Joint Statement classified female genital mutilation into four types and depending on the mutilation undergone, the women have a series health related problems. These range from painful menstruation cycle, on-going urinal infections, inability to have intercourse, and the worst, most devastating problem is mother/child mortality.
But what does this have to do with the article linked above. In 1985 by The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 the FGM became a crime throughout the UK with the penalty of 14 years in prison. Due to no convictions but still a necessity, it was replaced by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 which made it an offence to arrange FGM outside the country either for British citizens or permanent residents. This was an issue because many of the families who have immigrated to the UK from practising countries send their daughters to visit relatives, where they then undergo FGM. Though illegal many families or communities in the UK fly in so called “house doctors” to perform the procedure on multiple girls during a group ceremony. This led to a necessity of opening a 24 hours anonymous help line by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).