Over 60,000 girls under 15 are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation in the UK, according to FORWARD (Foundation for Women’s Health and Research and Development), a leading anti-FGM organisation. Half of all victims in England undergo the procedure in London.
The procedure, predominantly practiced in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, is deeply rooted in gender inequality in its attempts to control women’s sexuality with ideas about purity, modesty and beauty, and is sometimes performed on newborn babies.
Tuesday 6th February 2018 was the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
It also marked the release of a brooch designed by London based activist, FGM survivor and co-founder of Daughters of Eve Nimco Ali.
The brooch represents the hopeful end of the brutal and prevalent practice.
Ali became a victim of female circumcision at the age of 7 and the 4 triangles on the brooch represents her grandmother, her mother, herself, and her 7 year old niece, the first girl in Ali’s family not to be cut.
‘There are four generations of women and one is uncut, she is our hope and our future.’
Female Genital Mutilation has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and since 2003 anyone taking their child out of school to undergo the procedure faces up to 14 years in prison however, there has yet to be a conviction.
Many cases have been documented in the UK but police often claim ‘insufficient evidence’, leading to criticism by campaigners who argue that successive governments are scared of confronting so-called cultural practices.
Sarah McCulloch from the Agency for Culture and Change Management says ‘Wherever [ethnic minority] communities [that practice FGM] are residing, it is a problem’.
She continues ‘[Families] are forming a sort of co-operative to raise the funding to pay for someone to come from overseas. Those who are wealthy are using nurses or doctors or private clinics.
That is why London especially has been accused of being the FGM city of Europe because many people are coming from Europe on Eurostar and having their daughters [mutilated].’
Nimco Ali recently shared the stage with Jaha Dukureh at a screening of her documentary ‘Jaha’s Promise’ which followed Dukureh’s struggle, and ultimate victory, banning FGM in Gambia.
Ali spoke about the importance of incorporating FGM awareness in to PSHE education in British schools and to prevent the ‘medicalisation of FGM’ where it occurs in the UK.
When Ali reached out to her primary school teacher in the UK about her trauma, she was told it happens to “girls like her”.
FGM attracted media attention in Ireland this month when the Islamic Center of Ireland issued a Fatwa, Islamic law, against FGM.
Head Imam Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri publicly stated that female circumcision is illegal and Muslims should report it.
The religious ruling follows comments from fellow ICI scholar Dr Ali Selim, who stated that female circumcision was necessary in some circumstances.
Female Genital Mutilation has affected approximately 6,000 women and girls in Ireland, 137,000 in England and Wales and over 200 million worldwide, with 98% of women in Somalia, Egypt and Sudan having undergone the procedure.
Due to the tireless work of brave activists both in the UK and abroad we no longer see FGM as something that happens “over there” and the UK is joining the fight to eradicate this barbaric and pointless violence.
Young girls are most at risk of being taken abroad for FGM in the school holidays.
If you’re concerned that someone may be at risk, contact the NSPCC helpline on
0800 028 3550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.