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Why do we have a zero tolerance day dedicated to FGM?

By Shauna from Savera UK

6th February is a day of international observation for female genital mutilation (FGM) sponsored by the United Nations. As FGM is internationally recognised as a violation of human rights of girls and women, the 6th February is a day that helps us all raise awareness about this hidden crime.

FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is carried out for various cultural reasons within families and communities in the misguided notion that it will benefit the girl in some way e.g. to keep her virginity sacred until marriage. The procedure has absolutely no health benefits to girls and despite popular belief it not a religious practice as there are no religious texts that say that this practice needs to be endured.

The FGM tradition reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture, cruelty, inhumane or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure quite often results in death.

Although the total number of cases of FGM remains unknown due to lack of reporting, in the UK alone between April 2016 and March 2017 there were 9,179 attendances reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified or a procedure for FGM was undertaken (from the NHS Annual Report). There are yet to be any prosecutions for FGM in the UK despite it being illegal in this country since 1985. Families and communities often send young girls abroad to have the procedure done in countries that allow FGM but they are also known to bring “cutters” over to the UK from the community to do the procedure.

The amount of women and girls affected and the exceptionally appalling health risks of FGM are the reasons why the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM is so imperative. It is vital to educate professionals on recognising the signs of a young girl who is a victim of FGM as well as challenging this taboo subject within the communities where it is culturally accepted and rife.

Savera UK is an anti-FGM charity, supporting victims of the harmful practices as well as also raising awareness of the issue across Merseyside and Cheshire. On 6th February, in partnership with Merseyside Police, Savera UK is holding a film night at FACT showing the film Dunia (Kiss Me on the Eyes) by Lebanese filmmaker and journalist Jocelyne Saab. The film doesn’t just touch on the horrific practice of FGM but also presents a complex picture of how gender and class intersect in and put pressure on a young Egyptian woman. The film will then be followed by a panel discussion including representatives from Merseyside Police, The Open University, Forward and the community. It will be chaired by Anahid Kassabian, a film and media scholar.

Afrah Qassim, Founder and Chair of Savera UK said, “this is an opportunity to bring professionals and the community to have a dialogue on issues that impact us and our families, including FGM and other related subjects.” For more information about future FGM events as well as training around Harmful Practices, please subscribe to our newsletter through our homepage, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook or email info@saverauk.co.uk.



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