Female Genital Mutilation is Child Abuse and Must End, Says UK

Every month, at least 70 girls and women in the U.K. seek treatment for health problems related to female genital mutilation (FGM). Some 23,000 girls under the age of 15 in England are believed to be at risk of undergoing FGM. The procedure must be unbearably painful: it is often carried out without an anesthetic and involves the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs using a knife, scalpel, scissors, a razor or a piece of glass.

About 140 million girls and women around the world are living with the consequences of FGM, according to the†World Health Organization.

On Monday, the U.K. charity NSPCC launched a national helpline to protects girls at risk of FGM. Anyone — a teacher to a medical professional — who is concerned that a child might be at risk of FGM can contact the 24-hour helpline, which is run by NSPCC protection staff who have had training and experience with girls and women who have been subjected to FGM.

A traditional practice in some†African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities, FGM has been illegal in the U.K. since 1985. In communities that practice FGM, it is thought that it reduces a woman’s sex drive and can prevent her from having sex outside marriage.

According to the NSPCC, victims of FGM are usually between the ages of four and ten but some have had it done while they were babies. Indeed, Comfort Momoh, a midwife at Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital in London, tells the BBC that some women do not realize they had been subjected to FGM, as it was performed on them while they were babies. They often have urinary tract infections and abdominal pain and are only identified as having undergone FGM when they become pregnant and are seen by medical staff.

Hawa Sesay was mutilated when she was 13 years old in native Sierra Leone. As she says in the Telegraph, she knew many girls who bled to death and almost did so herself. She has little patience to hear about the traditional reasons — “preservation of a girl’s virginity, custom or tradition, or hygiene” — often used to support FGM.

The summer holidays can be the most perilous time for children,†says Sesay, as parents “smuggle their daughters to Africa to have the procedure done on them.”

NSPCC staff are hopeful that relatives might come forward and use the helpline. Callers are anonymous; information about children at risk will be passed on to social services and law enforcement.

But the most important step is for change within communities. Girls and women who are victims of FGM are often “hidden behind a wall of silence” and of shame,†Lisa Harker of the NSPCC says in the†BBC. Observing that there has been “nervousness to tackle” the issue of FGM in the past, Cathy Newman says in the Telegraph that it is long past time to think that ending FGM might “be seen as patronising, an imperialistic attempt to put an end to centuries of African, Asian and Middle Eastern culture.”

Research by the WHO†shows that “if practicing communities themselves decide to abandon FGM, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly.”†Plain and simple, FGM is†child abuse and a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

While it is impossible not to applaud the creation of the helpline, much more remains to be done. Government officials in the U.K. have signed a declaration against FGM and devoted £50,000 to agencies fighting the practice but “it’s not a lot,” as Newman writes in the†Telegraph. The†Department for International Development has provided†£35 million in funding and †called for ending FGM “in one generation.” It is such a sense of urgency that must direct all efforts to end FGM not simply soon, but as soon as possible.



Photo from Thinkstock


Julie H.
.3 years ago


Report calls for female genital mutilation to be treated as child abuse

This report is followed by some very interesting comments, such as this:

"I went to a seminar about FGM in about 2008. They were all still doing the "work with the community" shit. They were saying that they were after the mutilators, not the families of the girls. The police there were nodding away. I asked if it was okay for drug dealers to sell heroin to kids, as they were only after the Mr Bigs. Uncomfortable silence followed. This is even after they had admitted that every seminar they had tried to put on for women had been infiltrated by men who either wouldn't let women go in the first place, or who volunteered as 'translators' and then talked a load of crap for 2 hours.
It is utterly horrific that we turn a blind eye to this. Every year, girls do not return from Somalia, they have "died of malaria". When do people want to start seeing this as the appalling abuse it is, rather than the 'cultural issue' they pretend it is? Interesting that it is the RCM who are now demanding change. When I went for training, they were the ones shouting loudest about 'cultural sensitivity'."

Linda F.
.3 years ago

right now in your city, a little girl is being abused and mutilated by the removal of all or part of the labia minora and labia majora, and the stitching of a seal across the vagina, leaving a small opening for the passage of urine and menstrual blood
this is FGM and we need to stop it

Ernest Roth
Ernest R.3 years ago

@ Ben G "My question is; -WHAT century is it...??? -DAMMIT!!!" It's the century of Sarin gas, land mines. nuclear bombs etc. following the century of the rape of Nanking, U.S. Viet Nam atrocities, the destruction of Iraq, Khmer Rouge etc.@ Mandy H. Hang on. There are lots of men who would be delighted with you.@ Eleanora O. "in ENGLAND whether Clitoridectomy truly heals women from hysteria" Some English Victorian women were grateful for the freedom from sexual desire provided by clitoridectomy. Then was then and now is now. The UK isn't trying to end the practice,[an example of diversity] worldwide, just in Britain. Good on them.

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani3 years ago

sorry ... the end didn't fit anymore:

But would we give true educational assistance and in parallel apply "subtle" economic pressures on all the countries still practicing FGM I'm almost certain that we would be able to eliminate it during our life time.

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani3 years ago

To Linda F - If one puts these numbers down to a daily occurrence we come up with some

Approx. Eight Thousand Girls PER DAY.

Every day 8'000 girls are mutilated = every 11 seconds one; whether it's the mildest form (clitoris pricking like the majority in Egypt) or the worst form (pharaonic a.k.a. infibulation). What always gets me is that with proper and sustained efforts to educate the people this could be eradicated rather "fast" (in historic terms) as the example of the Afar people shows (http://www.target-nehberg.de/HP-01_genitaleVerstuemmelung/u1-1_dasVerbrechen/index.php?lang=en&; the site is in English although the link is German).

Ruediger and his wife Annette have shown that in choosing an unconventional and direct approach rather than the "government" one the results are as good if not even better and more so are not seen as forced upon and, therefore, are normally lasting.

The true problem that the eradication of FGM moves at a slow turtle pace is IMO that the interest only comes to life for some dubious political reasons rather than being permanently on top of the human rights agenda because it’s a crime against humanity (IMO again).

Today it's used to bash cultures and Islam ignoring the other two religions who commit this crime too.

But would we give true educational assistance and in parallel apply "subtle" economic pressures on all the countries still practicing FGM I'm almost certain that we would be able to eliminate it during our

Linda F.
.3 years ago

according to UNICEF
people in most countries where female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is concentrated oppose the harmful practice. Despite that opposition, more than 125 million girls and women alive today (some reports claim as many as 140 miilion) have been subjected to FGM/C and 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the next decade

Linda F.
.3 years ago

140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Cannot believe this still happens!

Marija Mohoric
Marija Mohoric3 years ago


Stacey Toda
Stacey Toda3 years ago

Hopefully the help line will help. Such a disgusting practice needs to stop.