In light of International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation being today, I am so happy to see more and more citizens of the world recognise the issue and crisis that is FGM. While its victims are primarily from Africa, the Middle East, or Asia, there are still victims in the UK; girls and women who are too afraid to speak up in a seemingly open culture. Nobody should go through FGM, and equally, nobody should tolerate it either.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘tolerate’ is defined as ‘to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference’. To avoid interfering is not a matter of respecting cultural boundaries. Interfering acknowledges the protection of one’s autonomy to the ownership of their anatomy. No female, child or adult, should have to endure the excruciating pain that is coupled with her genitalia being mutilated. In some instances, such a practice results in death, notwithstanding infection, organ problems and problems when having intercourse or even giving birth.
Personally, I have never met somebody who has been subject to FGM. But that doesn’t mean these victims don’t exist. FGM has been a silent issue, just like HIV in the last century, except this is inflicted pain and torture, not an illness you can transmit. When we do not first-hand experience a problem, we become ignorant to it, wilfully aware that problem does not exist. Yet, this is the wrong attitude to have with such a sinister crime. Not to mention, it is a crime against gender equality, it discriminates women for being born in their bodies, and can result in mental illness.
The UK does have limited measures in place to safeguard vulnerable women, but such procedures have failed to bring a successful prosecution. Every victim of FGM should be acknowledged and given the appropriate care and treatment, but why are the 17,000 victims living in England and Wales not receiving justice? The scarier fact is that there are roughly 200 million FGM victims worldwide. That’s about four times the population of England alone.
Yet, the 6th February marks the aims of the United Nations in combatting FGM. By 2030, they anticipate that the practice of FGM will be eliminated, as well as other harmful practices such as forced marriage. The UN are not the only organisation who have made it a priority to target the handling of this crime, but the EU and the African Union too.
2030 is 13 years away; 13 years too many chances for FGM to be carried out. While sometimes we can feel hopeless in attempting to tackle a global dilemma, each one of us can still be vigilant to the warning signs and symptoms of FGM. We have to look out for our sisters, wherever they may come from. The NSPCC have offered helpful guidance on being mindful of these signs here.
Today may remind or even introduce the crime of FGM to you, but do not let its incriminating nature be forgotten or tolerated. It must be fought and eliminated. And that takes a world, not just those subject to it.