UK: Thousands of girls subjected to genital mutilation
The NHS is offering to reverse FGM/cutting amid concerns that there are 500
victims a year with no prosecutions.
Despite having been outlawed in 1985, 'female circumcision' is still practised
in British African communities, in some cases on girls as young as five. Police
have been unable to bring a single prosecution even though they suspect that
community elders are being flown from the Horn of Africa to carry out the
The NHS is to advertise free operations to reverse FGM/cutting.
will appear from next month on a Somali satellite TV station much viewed in
Britain. It features Juliet Albert [FGMNet.org: Related links: Juliet Albert, and BBC interview on reversing FGM], a midwife who does the reverse operations,
and promises, in English and Somali, confidentiality for victims of female
was expected to help to undermine demand for girls to be circumcised, and to
popularise the reversal procedure, Ms Albert said. Thousands of such operations
have been carried out at specialist clinics and hospitals around Britain and
demand is growing slowly.
circumcision', which is done for various reasons, such as religious and
cultural traditions, can cause severe health complications including infections
and psychological problems. The procedure, predominantly carried out on girls
aged between 5 and 12, can range from the removal of the clitoris to the
removal of all the exterior parts of the vagina, which is then sewn up.
A study by the
Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development(Forward), estimated
that 66,000 women living in England and Wales had been 'circumcised', most
before leaving their country of origin. The government-funded research also
found that more than 7,000 girls were at a high risk of being subjected to
genital mutilation in Britain.
Sarah McCulloch, of
the Agency for Culture Change Management UK, said that every year more than 500
British girls were having 'circumcisions'. “A lot of them are done in the UK,
but some still travel overseas,” she said.
She said that a
code of silence in Britain’s African communities had allowed 'circumcisions' to
continue and prevented arrests. The unqualified female elders, known as “house
doctors” because they act in secret in a family home, are flown into the
communities do is they gather together and collect money to pay for the ticket
for a ‘doctor’ to come from Somalia, Sudan, or whatever,” she told The Times.
“And when she arrives here, she goes to a house and has the girls brought to
While Scotland Yard
is understood to have made investigations into 'female circumcision' in the UK,
and offered a £20,000 reward for information, no one has been successfully
prosecuted for carrying out the procedure.
Detective Constable Jason Morgan, from Scotland Yard’s Project Azure, denied that police were complacent. “We don’t bury our heads in the sand and say it’s not going on,” he said.
It is illegal to
take a person abroad for the operation but no one has been prosecuted for this
Ms McCulloch said
that girls were brainwashed into believing 'circumcision' to be a cultural, and,
in some cases, religious obligation that should be kept secret. “It is
something they simply do not discuss — if they do they’d be seen as betraying
their family and their community and culture,” she said. “I know many girls who
want to accuse their parents but can’t. They don’t want to take their parents
Waris Dirie, a
former UN envoy for the prevention of female genital mutilation, said that it
had no justification. Ms Dirie is a victim of the procedure and it haunts her
to this day. “Female genital mutilation has nothing to do with tradition,
religion or culture. It is the most cynical form of child abuse and a crime
that has to be punished,” she told The Times.
Ms McCulloch said
that men were becoming more vocal in opposition to 'female circumcision'. “I’ve
talked to some fathers who’ve made clear to their wives that they don’t want
this done to their daughters — only for them to go out and come back to find
their girls circumcised,” she said.
head teacher of Kelmscott School in Walthamstow, northeast London, said that
several teachers there would soon be trained to detect victims of 'female
circumcision', and pupils at risk. Experts believe that most of the procedures
are done during summer holidays when the girls have enough time to recover
without suspicion about their absence.
While Ms Parvez is
unaware of any cases at her school, which serves many pupils of African origin,
she said that she had been shocked and appalled to hear that 'female
circumcisions' were taking place in the UK.
16 March 2009
By Richard Kerbaj
Source: The Times