Female genital mutilation (FGM) is another form of gender-based violence against women that is performed on young girls from infancy to 15 years. Women over 15 years are also at risk if they have not been ‘cut’. According to the World Health Organization (WHO, January 2022), FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
FGM is also known as Tahur, female circumcision or the ‘cut’ in some communities. The practice is performed by female cutters in communities or in the hospitals and female members of families support it. The practice is not supported by any religion as it pre-dates both Islam and Christianity, but religion is commonly used by perpetrators to brainwash victims into believing that it is a religious obligation, which makes it hard for victims to challenge and report. Culture plays a bigger role in subjecting women and girls to the different forms of FGM.
FGM does not have any health benefits to women and girls who are cut, some do not have any recollection of what happened because they were young. Some women may not even know that they are living with FGM until it is brought to them by health workers during gynaecological examination or childbirth.
It is reported that FGM can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, infections, trauma, complications during childbirth and even death to the victim due to haemorrhage.
More than 200 million girls and women worldwide from practising communities have undergone FGM in 31 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, while 3 million girls are at risk of being cut annually. The above figures should be used as approximate as the practice is changing due to strict legislation in countries and in the UK, making those who practice use other ways of subjecting their daughters and women to FGM.
COVID 19 pandemic and the lockdown provided a good ground for girls to be cut and heal without professionals or law enforcers being aware. Being confined in their homes meant that girls could be cut without people noticing.
According to the WHO (2021), countries like Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti recorded unacceptably high prevalence rates during the Covid 19 pandemic with Egypt recording the highest rate at 27.2 million of women who had been cut.
In the UK, England NHS records and shares statistics on quarterly basis of individuals who visit the NHS. The period ending January 2022-March 2022, England NHS recorded 1685 individual women who identified themselves as having undergone FGM. In Wales, all the health boards record the number of women who disclose being a victim of FGM. These statistics will be available later in the year to share.