“I was pinned onto the table by four women. They said, ‘it’s not going to be painful, silly girl’. Apparently they gave me an injection to numb it, but I felt everything, I felt my flesh being cut off. I was screaming so much I just blacked out. After you’re cut you’re given presents, chocolates, sweets – my sister and me actually got gold watches. You’re abused, but you’re rewarded for it. It leaves you with a massive sense of confusion about people you trust.” Leyla Hussein, victim of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
More than 125 million females alive today have gone through genital mutilation. In England and Wales 24,000 are at risk every year. This figure will continue to rise if we stay silent. Leyla was just seven when she was mutilated, her sister much younger.
To be forced to face this horrific ordeal is unimaginable. I stand against FGM because if these females can no longer trust those closest to them, they need someone to turn to.
FGM is also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting, and, in practising communities, by terms such as ‘tahor’ or ‘sunna’.
There are four types of FGM:
Type one – Partial or total removal of clitoris and/or skin surrounding it;
Type two – Partial or total removal of clitoris and inner labia, with or without removal of outer labia;
Type three – Narrowing of vagina and creation of a covering seal from labia;
Type four – All other harmful procedures to female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and burning.
FGM is a form of abuse, which has devastating physical and psychological consequences. It is practised in at least 28 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia (House of Commons International Development Committee, 2013).
In the UK, FGM tends to occur in areas with large FGM practising communities, including London and other major cities.
The UK government has just hosted the first Girl Summit, aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end FGM as well as child, early and forced marriage within a generation. UNICEF co-hosted the event.
I was relieved to see that David Cameron has decided to take drastic action against this issue. Parents who allow their child to go through genital mutilation will face serious prosecution. The maximum sentence for carrying out FGM or helping it happen is 14 years in prison.
However, as Leyla Hussein says, “We need to recognise that if you arrest a mother, she might also be a victim. Our focus now must be on prevention.”
The dangerous and traumatic after-effects that these females face make this subject so important.
“I only became aware of how much I’d been affected psychologically by FGM when I fell pregnant. I was severely depressed and I hated being vaginally examined. It was my worst nightmare,” said Leyla.
Making you aware that this is an issue is the first step. No matter what these cultures say to justify this action it is abuse and no abuse can or should be justified.
The government has helped us take the second step to cutting out FGM by passing new legislation.
The third step is for you to join the fight, tell your friends and family, to campaign against this barbarism.
Daughters of Eve, co-founded by Leyla Hussein, is a non-profit organisation that works to protect girls and young women who are at risk from FGM. By raising awareness about FGM and sign-posting support services it aims to help the victims and ultimately bring an end to this practice.