The Metropolitan Police is offering a £20,000 reward for information which would bring to justice anyone involved in female genital mutilation. The campaign is being launched at the start of the summer holidays, during which young girls – mainly from African communities – are thought most at risk. Mutilation involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for cultural reasons.
Up to 7,000 girls in the UK are seen as at risk of this form of circumcision.
The long summer holiday is seen as the most likely time for parents to seek the procedure for their daughter as she has time to recover from what is usually a brutal ordeal before returning to school. She can be sent abroad for the treatment, but police say they know it is also being carried out within the UK itself.
A new law was introduced in 2003, which not only repeated 1985 legislation banning the procedure, but also criminalised those who took a child outside the country for mutilation to be performed. No-one has been prosecuted under the new legislation.
“It’s a hidden act,” said Alastair Jeffrey, head of the Child Abuse Investigation Command, as he announced the reward. “And that’s why it’s so hard to uncover. “This is child abuse. It is not an attack on anyone’s culture, it is an attack on anyone who commits this horrendous abuse of children.
[…] There are several types of mutilation, ranging from a minor piercing of the clitoris to the complete removal of all the external genitalia.
In some cases, what remains is then stitched up with coarse thread – leaving a tiny hole, perhaps just the size of a matchstick, for urinating and menstruation.
The procedure is in most cases carried out by older women who have no medical training. Anaesthetic is rarely used and the cuts are sometimes made with the most basic of tools such as razors or even pieces of glass.
It can have a range of short and long-term consequences including infection, incontinence and infertility, as well as causing significant psychological damage.
And it can be fatal.
Egypt, where as many as 90% of women have been circumcised, has just announced a full ban on the practice after a 12-year-old girl died last month.
Supermodel Waris Dirie was five when her mother held her down on a rock while another woman cut off parts of the genitals of Waris Dirie with a razor blade.
More about Waris Dirie here.
Waris survived the horrific pain and trauma of genital mutilation, but finally cracked and left home and her family, at the age of 13, when she found out she was to have an arranged marriage to a 60-year-old man in exchange for five camels. She lived with an uncle in Addis Ababa who took her with him when he was appointed ambassador to London. There, Waris’ career as an international fashion model began. Waris decided to accept the United Nations Population Fund’s invitation to become Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation in 1997. Waris is doing her part to break the wall of silence that has surrounded this practice for so long. In a new short TVE/UNFPA film, Waris relates her own story, and gives her views on how to stop FGM (female genital mutilation). “It’s got to be kept in the newspapers, it’s got to be talked about – and that’s the way people can help and to know what’s going on. Because mostly they don’t know what’s going on. Most of the world doesn’t know it’s going on, and it happens.”
Type I — Sunna Circumcision
The first and mildest type of FGC is called “sunna circumcision” or Type I. The term “Sunna” refers to tradition as taught by the prophet Muhammad. This involves the “removal of the prepuce with or without the excision of part or all of the clitoris (See the World Health Organization definition). Type I is practiced in a broad area all across Africa parallel to the equator. Fran Hosken enumerates the following countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania in East Africa to the West African coast, from Sierra Leone to Mauritania, and in all countries in-between including Nigeria, the most populous one. There are also reports of Type I taking place in areas of the Middle East such as in Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
Type II – Clitoridectomy
The second type of FGC, Type II, involves the partial or entire removal of the clitoris, as well as the scraping off of the labia majora and labia minora . This takes place in countries where infibulation has been outlawed such as Sudan. Clitoridectomy was invented by Sudanese midwives as a compromise when British legislation forbade the most extreme operations in 1946.
Type III – Infibulation or Pharaonic Circumcision
The third and most drastic type of FGC is Type III. This most extreme form, consists of the removal of the clitoris, the adjacent labia (majora and minora), and the joining of the scraped sides of the vulva across the vagina, where they are secured with thorns or sewn with catgut or thread. A small opening is kept to allow passage of urine and menstrual blood. An infibulated woman must be cut open to allow intercourse on the wedding night and is closed again afterwards to secure fidelity to the husband. Hosken also reports that infibulation is “practiced on all females, almost without exception, in all of Somalia and wherever ethnic Somalis live (Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti). It is also performed throughout the Nile Valley, including Southern Egypt, and all along the Red Seas Coast.
FGC is mostly done in unsanitary conditions in which a midwife uses unclean sharp instruments such as razor blades, scissors, kitchen knives, and pieces of glass. These instruments are frequently used on several girls in succession and are rarely cleaned, causing the transmission of a variety of viruses such as the HIV virus, and other infections. Antiseptic techniques and anesthesia are generally not used, or for that matter, heard of. This is akin to a doctor who uses the same surgical instrument on a number of women at the same time without cleaning any of them. (View Map of Areas of Practice for Type III)
I have no words after reading this. It’s hard even to read it. Much more to be the “patient” in this kind of operations.