Sunday, 15 November 2015

Female Genital Mutilation and prosecutions in the UK

The UK cannot boast a single conviction for FGM, compared to the 100 plus recorded in France. Why is this? Part of the answer might lie in the nature of the two legal systems – the inquisitorial in France, and the adversarial in Britain.

In short, the aim of the French system is to establish the truth. By contrast, the truth is not relevant to the outcome of a British criminal trial, (or a criminal trial in any country where the adversarial system is practised.)

The French system is based on a presumption of guilt. The process is investigative and works backwards from that premise. In the adversarial system, all investigation has taken place before the case has come to trial, after which, two counsels engage in a contest played according to certain rules.

The onus is on the prosecuting counsel to prove the guilt of the defendant, ”beyond reasonable doubt”, and the defendant is presumed innocent. This is one of the cherished features of our system, frequently commended as a liberty that we should be proud of. But investigations into miscarriages of justice tend to begin from the premise that the guilty verdict was correct and work backwards, finding the essential flaw as it proceeds, i. e. follow the French model.

I suspect that the adversary system is as likely to let the guilty go free as it is to condemn the innocent. The daughter of a well known Scottish barrister once told me of the occasion when her Father was greeted with the words,”You almost had me believing I didnae do it”, by a notorious Glaswegian hoodlum that he had just successfully defended!
My opinion!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Female Genital Mutilation V Male Circumcision

There is always a problem when people do compare things that should not be compared. In this case I mean FGM and MGM and I am realising each time I say FGM must end, then someone would say how about MGM. I never said MGM is good but comparing the two, FGM mutilation is the worst and here is why.

Frankly, the commonly performed version of male circumcision isn’t as serious as many of the widely performed FGM practices. Yes, removal of the foreskin causes harm and, despite claims to the contrary, has no detectable medical benefits, but FGM often goes far further. Leaving aside the horrible pain that the severe mutilation of a structure as sensitive as the clitoris causes (to have anything approaching a point of comparison, don’t think of removal of the foreskin, think instead of someone cutting a chunk out of your glans) The scarring of the woman’s genital tract can easily result in Obstetric fistula and complications in pregnancy or birth, assuming that the victim does not die soon after the initial mutilation occurs due to blood-loss or secondary infection.

In some forms of FGM, the entire clitoris and most of the labia are excised in their entirety, and the vaginal opening sewn shut except for a small aperture left for urine and other bodily secretion, until the victims wedding night, when the stitching is either cut or ripped open. The level of physical and emotional trauma the victims suffer is hard to imagine.

Then there is the social context of the respective behaviours. Removal of the male prepuce, while painful, disturbing and entirely unnecessary, is viewed primarily as a form of rite of passage – a means of identifying the victim as part of the in group. While these elements also feature in FGM, the symbolism goes far further. The labia and clitoris are removed in a bid to destroy the victim’s ability to experience sexual pleasure, as an expression of the utter contempt that the cultures and religions that perform this horrific abuse hold women and female sexuality in. It is believed that by removing these structures, women will not be ‘tempted’ to take charge of their own sexuality. Further, some cultures believe that by excising the seat of female sexual pleasure you also remove a component of the woman’s free will, thus rendering her more biddable. It is a twisted attempt at sympathetic-magic-based mind-control.

Finally, there is in some ways the most horrific and repugnantly misogynist component of all – in no small degree FGM is performed in pursuit of the aesthetic preferences and perceived convenience of the men of these cultures. It is a concrete expression of the idea within these societies that women aren’t actual people at all – that they exist as mere chattel for men, to be used for the pleasure and gratification of men and discarded at the whim of men.
Given all these factors, comparing male circumcision and FGM as somehow equivalent is highly inappropriate, and may easily be interpreted as an attempt to dismiss the suffering, and silence the voices, of women by means of a wilfully facile comparison to a superficially similar cultural rite that doesn’t cause anything approaching the same level of physical harm or carry the same toxic social baggage.

Think again and help us end female genital mutilation.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

When does a joke go too far in the workplace?

"Why are you so uptight? It was just a joke…" is not funny when it comes to sexual harassment.


In 2005, I was working in a school along with a whole lot of other colleagues, male and female. I was 28 and getting on with my job which I was leaving in a matter of weeks to go abroad for further studies.

One particular male colleague was the flirty type, even though he was married with kids. Unfortunately, he hung around with another female colleague, who used to love dressing provocatively, banter with the men and enjoyed their suggestive comments and looks.

I think he thought his behaviour was fully condoned by hanging out with this woman on coffee breaks, etc.

So one day, he asked me if I had a stick of Pritt glue which he could borrow. I was working on something on my computer and in a distracted way I rummaged in my drawer and let him have a stick of glue.

A few minutes later, he returned the stick of glue, and asked me, “So where do you want me to put it?” The ambiguity was totally lost on me at that moment, as I was still concentrating heavily on my work.

I said something like, “I don’t know, just put it anywhere.”, as I opened the drawer of my desk for him. 

Suddenly, he bursts out laughing and couldn’t stop snickering, and then rushed off to another male colleague a few desks away and I heard him recounting the story to this other guy:

“She doesn’t mind where you stick it in, front or back, it is all the same to her.” They started laughing and snickering even more.

I was so angry and humiliated when I realised what had happened.

I walked up to them and told them that it wasn’t funny at all, and of course I got the usual reply, “Why are you so uptight? It was just a joke.” and “M would have laughed and found it funny.” (M is the provocative dressing co-worker).

I told the perpetrator of this harassment that I did not appreciate the sexual undertone of his joke, and being the subject of their joke and having them laughing at my expense.

There was no remorse or apology, just a blatant insistence that I was the one in the wrong.  I reported the incident to the owner of the business, who was not impressed. 

Fortunately, they were quite progressive in their outlook and did not condone this guy’s behaviour at all. I was involved in a hearing with this guy and the management, where I recounted what had happened word for word. 

The guy still tried to make light of everything, but I could see that he did not feel so sure of himself any more. Since I was leaving,  I let the matter rest. I knew that this guy would be a lot more careful around me in future, but that other women would probably have to continue to watch their back while he was around.

He didn’t last for much longer in the company, management was not happy with his work and a year or two later, he resigned from the company.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Female Genital Mutilation and Women Rights

Every 10 seconds, somewhere in the world, a little girl is a victim of genital mutilation. Three million girls are excised every year. Together we have to be able to put an end to this human tragedy. Excision is a matter of universal concern. The issue of female genital mutilation has been on the agenda of organizations for many years.

Despite the fact that FGM causes pain and suffering to millions of women and girls and can be life-threatening, it remains deeply entrenched in certain social value systems. Changing this reality to bring about positive and protective social behaviour requires a holistic and integrated approach with harmonized programmes of action to achieve the common goal of Zero Tolerance to FGM.

To combat FGM, a synergy among international organizations, political and religious leaders, the media, civil society and the medical corps is absolutely necessary for the goal of abandoning this practice within a generation to become reality.

The international community has long expressed its rejection of this extreme manifestation of gender inequality, notably through international instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and regional instruments, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Its Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Only a strong and international alliance will enable us to put an end without delay to such practices

One of the most important elements of international human rights law is that the State and only the State has responsibility for upholding those rights. It is not left to individuals. What the State must do is ensure that through its actions it prevents individuals from committing human rights violations. It is one of the most fundamental precepts of international law.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Female Genital Mutilation and the Journey ahead

Have you ever wondered why, with FGM having been so much in the limelight in the last 5 years, there have not been any prosecutions in Britain?


A conversation I had recently with somebody I know in the anti FGM sisterhood ended in disappointment. She clearly thinks that because so much attention has been paid to FGM in the news of late, there is no longer any need to do anything. WRONG! Actually now is when we need to do more. Since there has been more awareness raised, more and more people who believe in this practice will now go underground. It has been known throughout history that people engaged in whatever practise will try to find a way of acting in secret if they are forced to do so by legislation. So let’s be vigilant and not fool ourselves into believing that the work has been done.


Remember this is not the first time FGM awareness has been raised.


Friday, 21 August 2015

As school opens please look out for signs of female genital mutilation!


As summer holiday draws to an end, there are girls who may have been cut. It is vital for schools to create a culture where children feel able to come forward if they have been a victim of FGM, or suspect that a friend might have. If a child approaches a member of staff, they need to be able to act on this information.


If a child has already undergone the procedure it should be reported so that the child is provided with appropriate care and support. Signs that could indicate a girl has had FGM include:

  • Going to the toilet more often than usual or for a long time.
  • Not able to cross her legs when sitting on the floor.
  •  Trying to get out of PE.
  • Urinary tract infections, being in pain, clutching her body.
  • Sudden changes in behaviour (quiet/subdued/misbehaving).
  • Talking about something somebody did to them that they are not allowed to discuss.
  • Avoiding old friends
What to do if you are concerned about someone who is at risk of FGM

  • Talk to them about your concerns
  • Talk to your safeguarding officer

Friday, 14 August 2015

Let's save our girls from Cutting Please

EVERY year around July and August, thousands of girls disappear from homes and schools for extended holidays never to return the same again.

It’s a part of the annual “cutting season” where girls younger than 15 are sent to visit relatives only to have their genitalia mutilated using knives, scissors or pieces of glass and sometimes sewn up using thorns.


 “Summer generally is what they call the cutting season which also means that people have often taken girls abroad in the summer holidays to have this done’’


If you notice any changes in your neighbour, friends and relatives kids please contact the officials. This is a barbaric practice and no one should be going through this in the 21st Century.  It has been proved beyond doubt how dangerous this is to girls and women.

Let’s show female genital mutilation the red card this summer!


Sunday, 19 July 2015

What do you think of when you hear the word 'rapist?'

For many people, the word invokes a vision similar to the one “vampire” might invoke: violence in dark alleyways - a faceless, hulking figure attacking a screaming young woman. A natural predator. A monster.

In a perfect world, these monsters wouldn’t exist, but this is not a perfect world.

And so in the same way that characters in vampire stories are reminded to carry garlic, young women are reminded not to walk alone at night, not to venture into dangerous areas, not to wear “immodest clothing”, and not to drink too much.

“If you can just follow these rules,” society claims, “The monster won’t attack you.”

Monsters like vampires are conveniently simple to understand. They’re evil for the sake of being evil. It’s in their nature.

When you view rapists this way, campaigns that talk about teaching rapists not to rape rather than teaching victims not to get raped might seem as ludicrous as a campaign teaching vampires not to drink blood.

The thing is, rapists are often not literally cold-blooded, faceless monsters who are proudly and knowingly evil. They’re people.

When Bill Cosby raped his victims, it was not at knifepoint in an alleyway. He was not a masked thug, easily recognizable as a “baddie”. This is Bill Cosby, of the iconic, wholesome, family TV show we all watched. He’s one of the most famous dads of all time.

Can any fan of his be blamed for trusting him? For being willing to spend time alone with him? For accepting when he offered them a drink?

Dozens of women have come forward to accuse him of rape or sexual assault, often after drugging them, but Bill Cosby just doesn’t fit our “faceless monster” mental image of rapist.


Perhaps this is why even now, after released court documents have revealed that Cosby admitted to drugging women for sex, the word “rape” is so often carefully avoided.

According to the New York Post, Cosby’s wife Camille believes his accusers “consented” to drugs and sex. Camille is also reported to have said, “They are making him out to be such a bad guy, a monster”.

I wonder, does Cosby see himself as a rapist? Or consider his actions “that bad”?

In an old comedy routine he describes being a 13 year old boy who hears about “Spanish Fly”, something you can put in a girl’s drink.

“From then on, man, every time you see a girl. ‘Wish I had some Spanish Fly’. Go to a party, see five girls standing along. ‘Boy if I had a whole jug of Spanish Fly, light that corner up over there. Hahahaha’.”

As the routine goes on, he describes being an adult who, with a friend, is excited to go to on a trip to Spain, because in Spain they might be able to get some “Spanish Fly”. He describes this as “our childhood dream come true”.

The joke is that they get to Spain, prepare to ask the Spanish taxi driver about “Spanish Fly”, and he turns around and asks them about “American fly”.

The undertones of this joke? All around the world, men and boys dream for a drug they can just slip into a girl’s drink, and this is charmingly amusing rather than horrifying. Boys will be boys. Ha ha.

This joke is from 1969. The earliest alleged sexual assault, in which Cosby drugged his victim, would have happened in 1965. This means a rapist stood on stage and joked about rape, and his audience laughed along with him. He never had to examine his actions or see how monstrous they were, because “boys will be boys”.

I want to talk about another rapist, one that many have found a lot easier to see as a faceless monster.

Mukesh Singh is one of six men who took part in an infamously vicious gang rape on a bus in India in 2012. They not only raped Jyoti Singh, their 23 year old victim, but they beat and penetrated her with iron rods, causing her to die of internal injuries.

In a recent interview, Mukesh said he had no regrets about the rape, largely because he felt Jyoti brought it upon herself.

As far as he’s concerned, and I quote, “A decent girl won’t roam about at 9 o’clock at night”. He also blames Jyoti for her death, claiming that “if she stayed silent and didn’t put up a fight” she’d “be alive today”.

Mukesh also wondered why people are “making a fuss” about the rape, when “everybody’s doing it”.

Apart from the fact that they’re both rapists, there’s an extremely important similarity between Cosby and Mukesh: Both seem to view their behaviour as normal. According to Cosby, all boys share this dream of one day obtaining some “Spanish Fly”. According to Mukesh, “everybody’s doing it”, and really the only person who he felt did anything bad was his victim.

This is rape culture.

This is why we need to teach boys that drugging girls is not charming and cute. This is why we need to teach men that all women deserve respect, not just so-called “decent” girls.

This is why we need to teach everyone that consent matters, and that having sex with someone without their consent, whether that person is male or female, whether you are male or female, is rape.

Rapists aren’t monsters that can be warded off by staying in at night and never being a woman who is wearing a short skirt. They’re humans, men and women, who often simply haven’t learned the lesson that rape is wrong, or even that what they’re doing is rape.

And this is why, if we genuinely want to stop rape, we need to stop teaching “don’t get raped”, and instead begin to teach “don’t rape”.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Female Genital Mutilation and the Cutting Season

The summer holiday is now here and schools are shut. People will travel abroad and some families will have visitors coming from abroad. Ladies and gentlemen I would like to remind you of the dangers that our young girls and women will be facing. Summer is the Female genital mutilation cutting season and we have to be vigilant. For many families in certain communities  who can afford to travel, this is when they can go abroad, have their girls cut and join the millions of girls who are abused through this procedure throughout the world. These are only innocent girls who happen to have been born into families believing in archaic traditions.  We know what this can mean:

·         Severe loss of blood (haemorrhaging), sometimes leading to death

·         Severe pain or shock

·         Infections

·         Urine retention

·         Extensive damage of the external reproductive system

·         Complications in pregnancy and child birth

·         Problems during sexual intercourse/sexuality

·         Mental health problems/Psychological and psycho-sexual problems

·         A combination of any or all of the above

 Remember, girls can be cut anywhere in the world. They don’t have to leave these shores. It is true people do have family visiting from abroad. Of couse, most of these visits are genuine but others may be from excisors.

So let’s all be vigilant this summer and look out for signs of unusual activities. Female genital mutilation is real and people are still doing it despite all the campaigns and the obvious dangers.

Together we can end this practice.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Thousands of girls in Tanzania still undergoing genital Mutilation

In most cultures, getting your first period signifies the transition from girlhood into womanhood. Other perceptions suggest this happens when a girl loses her virginity.

Others still, will say that a woman only becomes her full self when she gives birth.

But for the girls in Tanzania, they become a woman when they have their genitals mutilated.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not legal on the African continent, so why is it still so rife? It seems that governments cannot control what happens in many tribes, or simply turn a blind eye when this law conflicts with cultural beliefs.

In Tanzania, FGM is not only about FGM. Other factors come into play whenever the ceremonial act of ‘cutting’ is performed. The following are some of the reasons why FGM still persists:

1. Coming of age

Much like 21st birthday celebrations, the Tanzanians perform a ceremony when a girl is of age (between 8 and 15). This annual ritual, complete with feasting and dancing, is where children are chosen, dressed up, anointed, given gifts, paraded and bestowed their final honour: genital cutting.

2. Honour

It’s a rite of passage and one that girls need to pass through to be able to be married, perform certain cultural acts and be seen as a woman or member of their tribe.

3. Child marriage

FGM and child marriage is completely normal for many Tanzanians, and seen as a great honour and duty. As barbaric as it is, arrangements  are made between parents and tribes as commonplace as it is for us to wear diamond engagement rings. Parents don’t view this as a human rights abuse, and offer their children up for the cutting because they want them to be eligible – often at an age most Westerners aren’t even legally allowed to consent to sex.

4. Money

Elders and those who perform the cuttings are getting paid. Many of them have no other skills and will be out of work if FGM was stopped.

5. Oppression

Women are not seen as equals and are not sent to school. They are forced into early child marriage, often uneducated, and many turn to selling their bodies to earn a living and end up contracting HIV and Aids. An uneducated life perpetuates the cycle of oppression, and generation after generation of girls and women are lost. Being no more than tools for breeding and service is what women and girls need.

Risks and Dangers of FGM

Unhygienic cuttings for both girls and boys pose many risks, including the spreading of HIV/Aids, the use of blunt unsterile instruments which cause infection and sepsis, insufficient aftercare, and the possibility of bleeding to death.

How this affects us

Inequality and gender based violence is a global problem. In ending a form of abuse, in this case child abuse, there has to be awareness first. Awareness can lead to empowering more groups to stand against any form of gender based violence in any way that they can.

A ripple effect is moving all around the globe – one where men and women are fighting for gender equality. From the writers trying to shed light on the subject, to the many doctors and volunteers working FGM, we are all part of the same army. An educated woman is a powerful tool and agent for change in this perception worldwide. All forms of gender based violence and oppression need to be exposed, no matter how far removed from our own lives.


Saturday, 27 June 2015

A mutilation cannot be considered a cultural act

In order to effectively fight female genital mutilation, one has to have sufficient knowledge about it. I talk about “mutilation” because it is an organ that is cut not for medical reasons but for social and cultural reasons.

It is a shameful practice, because a mutilation cannot be considered a cultural act.
In Africa, we cannot fight the practice only by invoking the health risks or legal arguments. It has to be attacked on a cultural level. We have to present cultural counter-arguments. We should tell the African women that we must fight these murderous practices, because they have nothing to do with the true African culture.
It has to be remembered that in the Middle Ages in Europe there used to be the chastity belt and women bound their breasts so that they would look like boys. Of course, this is not done anymore. We have to fight anything that has no basis in reason. The religious argument does not hold water either. The aesthetic argument has no value and in the final analysis, a woman should be free to enjoy her body.
The only way to fight the practice in societies where people cannot read or write - what is the point of telling them about infection and
haemorrhaging? - is to present cultural counter-arguments.

 We should not forget pride and Honour

In Kenya recently, there was a young woman of 21 whose mother had not been excised. To please her husband since her in-laws did not like the fact that she had not undergone the procedure, this girl performed an excision on herself with a razor blade. If one examines cultural practices such as FGM and the status of women, one will realize that women are the pillars of their families and of society. In Africa, it is said that behind every strong man there is a stronger woman. To understand excision in the African culture, one has to take into account all these cultural aspects.

Migrant women are often caught between the culture of their country of origin and the culture of their country of destination

 Communities have been uprooted and displaced to other countries. Those who migrate voluntarily - legally or illegally – do so because they believe they will be able to lead a better life in their new country.
Therefore, it is very important to deal with FGM within the context of migration. The problems of excision and other traditional practices which negatively affect migrant women and children are exacerbated due to the displacement of these populations. FGM is condemned by most of the governments of the countries involved, which are both countries of origin and countries of destination. FGM remains an ongoing practice in many countries of the world. It is a destructive practice, although it is often considered as the norm by many women and girls among these migrating communities. We need to target these communities if we want to find a solution to the problem.
The role of the family is crucial in having these women adapt to the customs of their new country of residence. Mutilations drain women’s energy and the resources that they could use to learn the language of their new country, look for work and send their children to school. FGM can be an obstacle to social integration for these migrant women. This is one of the reasons why fighting FGM is a priority and yet another reason to combat this practice. Even for young girls born or raised in Europe – where prevalence is fairly high – excision is considered as a right of passage and not subjecting oneself to this procedure may destroy interfamilial links.

Literacy campaigns, sending children to school, mastering the language, having access to the economy, so as to have necessary financial resources ,all of these social determinants need to be taken into account to fight this problem, so that migrant women are in a better position to shoulder their responsibilities and combat the problem. Only if women become empowered and autonomous will the message be heard and have a positive effect.

Women who come from migrant communities need to know where to turn if they need assistance for themselves and their families in terms of health care and other forms of assistance. All of this needs to be part of an integration policy, not only in the country of destination but also in the countries of origin.

The principal actors are the women themselves.They are the main target group because they are both the guardians and the victims of this practice.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Why is female genital mutilation still practiced?

There are several reasons provided to justify the practice of female genital mutilation:

  • Control over women’s sexuality: Virginity is a pre-requisite for marriage and is equated to female honour in a lot of communities. FGM, in particular infibulation, is defended in this context as it is assumed to reduce a woman’s sexual desire and lessen temptations to have extramarital sex thereby preserving a girl’s virginity.
  • Hygiene: There is a belief that female genitalia are unsightly and dirty. In some FGM-practicing societies, unmutilated women are regarded as unclean and are not allowed to handle food and water.
  • Gender based factors: FGM is often deemed necessary in order for a girl to be considered a complete woman, and the practice marks the divergence of the sexes in terms of their future roles in life and marriage. The removal of the clitoris and labia — viewed by some as the “male parts” of a woman’s body — is thought to enhance the girl’s femininity, often synonymous with docility and obedience. It is possible that the trauma of mutilation may have this effect on a girl’s personality. If mutilation is part of an initiation rite, then it is accompanied by explicit teaching about the woman’s role in her society.
  • Cultural identity: In certain communities, where mutilation is carried out as part of the initiation into adulthood, FGM defines who belongs to the community. In such communities, a girl cannot be considered an adult in a FGM-practicing society unless she has undergone FGM.
  • Religion: FGM predates Islam and is not practiced by the majority of Muslims, but it has acquired a religious dimension. Where it is practiced by Muslims, religion is frequently cited as a reason. Many of those who oppose mutilation deny that there is any link between the practice and religion, but Islamic leaders are not unanimous on the subject. Although predominant among Muslims, FGM also occurs among Christians, animists and Jews. 

It sounds like an obvious thing to say but let’s remember in our fight to end this practice we should try and understand diverse tribes and what they stand for. With the rise of  globalisation it is important to remember that FGM is no longer prevalent in Africa, Asia or the so obvious places as before. Some women born and bred in the western countries now have to undergo FGM in order to please boyfriends, lovers or husbands. We should all be fighting this practise.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Female genital mutilation: a curse on women


Despite decades of activists trying to curb the practice and dozens of laws banning it, the horrific procedure of cutting or removing babies' and girls' external genitalia continues.

According to an exhaustive new report from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), more than 125 million girls and women in 29 countries have undergone female genital mutilation.

The reasons are varied. It will stop girls from being promiscuous and preserve their virginity, proponents say. It's socially expected; it's tradition; it's religious.

But it's also incredibly dangerous and painful, and most of the girls and women who experience it want it to stop.

The practice occurs mostly in African and Middle Eastern countries. Women, and men too, say they subject their daughters to it because they will be socially ostracized if they don't.

It would be easy to blame parents, but that would be ignoring the complexities of the issue. The practice is tied to everything from tradition to patriarchy, and that's part of the reason attempts to stop it have been only marginally successful.

Way forward

Tougher laws

There are laws against female genital mutilation in most African nations, but the practice continues, because the laws don't address the social and cultural reasons for committing the act in the first place.

If individuals continue to see others cutting their daughters and continue to believe that others expect them to cut their own daughters, the law may not serve as a strong enough deterrent to stop the practice.

Conversely, among groups that have abandoned [female genital mutilation and cutting], legislation can serve as a tool to strengthen the legitimacy of their actions and as an argument for convincing others to do the same.

 Ending social ostracism

Many of the countries where cutting occurs are predominantly Muslim, but it would be wrong to say the religion is somehow at fault. There are Muslims around the world who abhors the practice, and it is often linked to other ethnic and social traditions unique to different regions. According to the UN, organizations that have encouraged people to abandon the practice "not as a criticism of local culture but as a better way to attain the core positive values that underlie tradition and religion, including 'doing no harm to others'" have had some luck in limiting the procedure.

Efforts to end female genital mutilation contribute to the larger issues of ending violence against children and women and confronting gender inequalities.

Let’s face it, the issue of FGM centres on gender imbalance.

Organizations working to end FGM need to let women know about specific imams, for example, who have disavowed the practice, so they don't see it as something absolutely required by their religion.

There is also need to talk about the health consequences especially mentally after the cutting which most cut women carry until they die. 

Unfortunately without awareness of the dangers of FGM "women feel very strongly that they have to cut, that it is a religious obligation and convincing women to abandon a practice they see as so intrinsic to womanhood in cultures that value girls as wives and mothers above all else is complicated.


Women in FGM practising communities’ are not given the same political or educational opportunities as men. They hold very little power, and even when they want to end the cycle of mutilation, they face the prospect of being cast out if they resist. Some women fear that if they do not have their girls cut, they will be "unsuitable" for marriage, which would doom them to a life of ostracism and poverty in many places.

Without education or means to support themselves, women are stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty and oppression.

Education could draw women into the labor market, which could weaken traditional family structures. Women might be seen as desirable partners for their ability to contribute to household income, which might reduce what some see as the need for cutting. Schools can also expose girls to people from different cultures and to mentors who might oppose the practice. While many girls have been cut by the time they reach school, they may be more likely to not continue the cycle with their own daughters.

Educating men and boys about the dangers of cutting is important, too. And the report found that many men, like women, want the practice to end but feel they have to subject their daughters to it for social reasons.

Ultimately, as many as 30 million girls face genital mutilation in the next decade, but there is some hope.

If, in the next decade, we work together to apply the wealth of evidence at our disposal, we will see major progress. That means a better life and more hopeful prospects for millions of girls and women, their families and entire communities.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Female Genital Mutilation and Identifying girls and women at risk

entifying girls and young women at risk

Knowing who has been mutilated or is at risk is often difficult. This is difficult because:

• it happens only once

• parents may believe FGM is a good thing to do for their daughters

• the genitalia of girls are rarely examined

• it is not culturally acceptable for girls to talk openly about FGM.

But remember there is a risk if:

• the girl’s mother or her older sisters have been cut

• the mother has limited contact with people outside of her family

• the paternal grandmother is very influential within the family

• the mother has poor access to information about FGM

• no one talks to the mother about FGM

• health, social service and education staff fail to respond appropriately

• communities are given the impression that FGM is not taken seriously by the statutory sector.

Step up and say No to FGM. It has nothing to do with culture or religion. Spread the message and say no to an unnecessary, horrific procedure that has no value to a woman’s body.



Saturday, 30 May 2015

Female genital Mutilation in 2015

I read with joy of many charities or groups coming together to fight female genital mutilation. Unfortunately there are some challenges that we have to face. Just one piece of advice. I am African and I know how challenging it is to change a mind-set. So I thought of ways to approach people. Nothing new but they are worth remembering. There is no doubt that it is a violent crime so why then is the practice not coming to an end despite campaigns going back decades? Part of it is because people don’t know any better. I have come to the conclusion that FGM has been an untouchable area for charities and so forth because for many it seemed like attacking a people’s culture. And those communities where FGM is practised have led people to believe that it is a culture, with most of these practising countries being former colonies of Western countries (which had experienced criticisms of their indigenous cultures and behaviours). As a result, there may be a tendency for local people to be defensive, even when they know the practice is wrong. It’s all very well talking about FGM and writing about it but people also need strategies that work. What might have worked in one community might not necessarily work for another and this should be remembered.
Also sometimes people forget the local people and how important they are.  I remember when I was young; there were communities that resisted immunisation. When health officials went there with their mobile clinic, they found a ghost city waiting for them. All the children had been hidden and a few adults waited to explain that they did not want anybody attacking their culture. ‘Culture’ does not justify violence. Some people from FGM communities see any involvement by outsiders as an attack and would oppose anyone who said otherwise, which why the method by which we approach people and whether they can feel they can trust us makes a difference in people’s attitude. For the example above of people who resisted immunising their kids, it was by making people involved understand the risks involved that worked rather than a confrontation.
How was this achieved?
  • Dealing with the senior people of the community rather than with individuals
  • Bribing people ( Even during slave trade, wealthy landowners had to be paid off in order to release their slaves) Sometimes small favours can get someone’s attention even if it’s just to make them listen.
  • Listening to people’s views. - No good doing the talking without giving the FGM practising community leaders an ear. Let’s remember, in these communities there is stigma associated with whichever way things go. Those circumcised are laughed at and those who are not are made to feel small, so it is best to listen and listen well. Oxfam, in it’s approach in helping communities realised that it works better to empower the locals than impose.
  • Knowing when to stop. I have seen people trying so hard to make people understand reason, but if one pushes more than the other person can take, it can be all in vain as people are by nature defensive to criticism.
  • Just keeping things simple- In the case of immunisation, the people involved with the project used all sorts of tools including rag dolls to illustrate the dangers of the consequences. Slowly people began to understand. People like circumcisers in many FGM practising communities are not educated, and would need more than an English written document to understand and accept
  • Making sure the communication and the message being relayed is what the other person thinks it is. This can be achieved by getting a balance by understanding people and communities and their background. Writing a piece of paper in a room or hotel somewhere without the understanding of a people could be seen as an attack. Culture whether good or bad with a capital C is central to the existence of many communities especially African. But it can be this culture that enslaves. Making those from the culture understand, will need perseverance and understanding from activists.
  • I would also suggest it may be better for people to know and understand something of a community before approaching them.
  • Just work with others rather than being individualistic. This is a global problem and making it a one man band does not work. Remember these people have been practising FGM for years and to them it is normal. There needs to be more than one person working in a community.
As I pointed out before , saying something is not right within a community is not the same as attacking a country or people but like any community anywhere in the world it is necessary to weed out from time to time the evil and harmful practices. Like any cultural war there are bound to be criticisms and attacks but we have gone too far to let those attackers win. The battle continues, No to FGM.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Happy Africa Day

Happy Africa Day!

An interesting poem from one of Africa's sons - David Diop

Africa my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
On the banks of the distant river
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
The sweat of your work
The work of your slavery
Africa, tell me Africa
Is this your back that is unbent
This back that never breaks under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying no to the whip under the midday sun
But a grave voice answers me
Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
springing up patiently, obstinately
Whose fruit bit by bit acquires
The bitter taste of liberty.
Food for thought!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Female genital mutilation from Africa to the west

Female circumcision has been practiced historically and continues today in more than 28African countries, with prevalence rates in each of these countries ranging from 5% to 99%.
These practices have taken many symbolic forms—a birth practice, a childhood or adolescent rite of passage, a symbol of reaching manhood or womanhood, a sign of tribal affiliation, or a protection against sexual activity prior to marriage.

Female circumcision is practiced in many African countries but, based on individual tribal or cultural practices, not necessarily in every region of each individual country. It is estimated that at least 100 million women are circumcised currently, representing various socioeconomic classes and different ethnic and cultural groups, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, and followers of indigenous African religions.

Circumcision was believed to be an economic necessity since the men would be away from their homes for long periods of time, and therefore, wanted assurance that any children born during their absence were their own.
Various types of female circumcision has been an integral portion of many of the cultural and religious practices in Africa for thousands of years.
 These practices have taken many forms—a birth practice, a childhood or adolescent rite of passage, a symbol of reaching manhood or womanhood, a sign of tribal unity, a protection against sexual promiscuity.
Each cultural group has its own practices with its own meaning or meanings attached. Therefore, it is inevitable that these practices may continue as the African diaspora continues.

Western history of female circumcision

Excision and infibulation are by no means unique to Africa, as might be assumed in this discussion to present. These practices have existed and still exist in many parts of the world.
Female clitoral excision was practiced fairly extensively in the English-speaking world during the 19th Century. Some doctors thought that clitoridectomy was necessary not only to cure such sexual conditions as nymphomania (high sex drive), but also to prevent masturbation, hysteria, epilepsy, melancholia, and insanity (Sanderson, 1981).

 In 1865, Isaac Baker Brown, elected President of the Medical Society of London and respected gynecological surgeon, published his views on female excision. Dr. Brown’s treatment was excision of the clitoris and of the labia minora, sometimes without even the prior knowledge of the patient. It is likely, according to Dr. Brown’s records, that several thousand such operations were performed during the mid- to late-1800s. In 1867, the British medical establishment repudiated Brown’s “cures” and expelled him from the Obstetrical Society of London, and the practice was abandoned.
Similar practices in the United States existed as well and, in the United States from the 1880s to the 1950s, excision was performed to supposedly prevent masturbation, frigidity, hysteria, depression, epilepsy, lesbianism, kleptomania, nymphomania, and melancholia. Even into the 1970s, 3,000 such operations were performed, and their costs were covered by Blue Cross Insurance until 1977 (Sanderson, 1981)
Criminalizing, on its surface, seems a justifiable response for practices that are thought to harm or maim another. Nevertheless, the history of criminalizing, particularly of cultural practices, tends to divert the practice underground, and therefore, lead to more rather than less concerns. Criminalization of such practices is also seen as paternalistic—one society’s attempts to elevate their own practices as the correct or moral ones and negate another culture’s practices as lesser or immoral. Statutes requiring educational initiatives rather than criminalization initiatives might be the most appropriate compromise.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Strategies for elimination of Female Genital Mutilation

Any attempts or strategies to end female genital mutilation should take into consideration many factors including the one listed below:

An integration issue: Moving to another country can be challenging for families as they try to adjust to a completely different environment and culture, while at the same time trying to preserve essential elements of their own culture. However, continuing the practice of FGM conflicts with fundamental values and is unlawful and severely punished in many countries of destination.

Additionally, the ability of a migrant to integrate into a host society is based on combined mental, physical, cultural and social well-being. FGM and its attendant consequences can impede women’s and girls’ efforts to integrate into the host society, since poor health impacts on their ability to attend and succeed at school and therefore, integrate into the labour market.

Empowering Women: As FGM is a manifestation of gender inequality, a special focus on women’s empowerment in every aspect of their lives is important. Empowering activities for women include, for instance, proper educational sessions such as literacy training, or pre-employment training sessions. Even though women play a central role in the practice of FGM, activities must reach all groups in the communities to avoid misunderstanding and to lead to intragroup dialogue.

Building Bridges across continents:  Efforts towards the abandonment of FGM in countries of origin may be challenged by the visits or return of members of the community living abroad, as migrants are often unaware of the evolution of the practice in their countries of origin. Because they were not involved in the consensus-building process that led to the abandonment, they may argue that the tradition should be maintained for the sake of the group’s identity. Since the diaspora greatly contributes to communities’ life in their countries of origin, in particular through remittances transfers, their potential to have a detrimental impact may be very important, an aspect that should not be neglected.

Capacity-building of relevant professionals: Gynaecologists, midwives, paediatricians, psychologists, general practitioners, as well as school nurses, teachers, child care professionals, social workers, police and the justice sector must be involved and trained, through sensitization campaigns and specific trainings, on how to identify girls who may be in danger of being subjected, or who may have been subjected, to FGM and which steps can and must be taken.

Day-care centres, schools, mother and child welfare services have a particular responsibility in identifying children at risk or those who suffer from the consequences of FGM. They can build a privileged relation with the parents.

Remember:  FGM is strongly linked to culture; it becomes an integration issue, in addition to being a health and human rights issue. In situations where integration is difficult, it often results in a withdrawal into the community and sometimes stricter application or toughening of cultural practices. In this case, the preservation of ethnic identity is used to mark a distinction from the host society, especially when migrants are resettling in a receiving culture where women have more freedom of choice and expression, including in their sexuality, as compared to their community of origin.

Fighting against FGM in Western countries can also particularly challenging as awareness-raising activities can easily be perceived as judgmental.

We all have a role to play in ending female genital mutilation.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Did you know this about female genital mutilation?

  • Introcision is another rare form of female genital mutilation reported to be practiced by the Pitta-Patta aborigines of Australia.
  • When a girl reaches puberty, the whole tribe - both sexes- assembles. The operator, an elderly man, enlarges the vaginal orifice by tearing it downward with three fingers bound with opossum string essentially just shredding the clitoris until it’s gone. This is usually followed by compulsory sexual intercourse with a number of men.
  • It is reported that 'introcision' is also practiced in eastern Mexico, Brazil, and Peru. In North-Eastern Peru, among a division of the Pano Indians, the operation is performed in front of the whole community where an elderly woman, using a bamboo knife cuts around the hymen from the vaginal entrance and severs the hymen from the labia, at the same time exposing the clitoris. Medical herbs are applied, followed by the insertion into the vagina of a penis-shaped object made of clay.
  • The other but unclassified methods usually involve pricking, piercing or incising of the clitoris and/or labia stretching of the clitoris, cauterization by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissue, the insertion of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or for the purposes of tightening or narrowing it.
Defenders of FGM
  • Cultures that practice FGM fall into three categories: the controlling, the fearful, and the ignorant.  The controlling cultures wish to keep their woman's sexual urges at a minimum, so they mutilate the genitalia to prevent them from becoming like “American Girls”. The controlling also remove the clitoris so as to remove the “man parts” from the woman and make her more womanly.
  • The fearful are those who genuinely believe that if the woman keeps her clitoris, a child could be stillborn during birth.  They also believe that a woman who keeps her clitoris is “unclean”, and will not let her handle any of the food of water in fear of it getting contaminated.  The fearful are the religious, superstitious cultures.
  • The ignorant are those who blindly follow tradition, even though they know no good reason for doing so.  These categories very often are combined, and are all used to defend FGM.
  • Then there are the victims! Many of the victims are helpless because they are either very young, or they are very ignorant to their rights.  
  • Some women don’t even realize that what is happening to them is wrong because it has been apart of their culture for so long. In many of the FGM practicing cultures, the “procedure” happens when the girl is only a few weeks old.  These young girls may not feel that they were wronged because by the time they can have their own opinions, the pain is as far gone as the memory of ever having the missing parts.  
  • There are also the victims who don’t have the operation done until right before they give birth because it is believed if the clitoris is not removed and the child comes into contact with it during birth it will be a stillborn.
Empowering women is the key!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Have you ever wondered about FGM instruments and Methods?

The Instruments

  • Any sharp cutting instrument such as a knife, broken glass, razor blade will do, or the operator may have somehow acquired medical instruments like a scalpel, forceps or scissors.
  • The instruments may be new or may have already been used for other purposes and/or on other persons.
  • Sterilization is seldom known nor performed by these traditional operators.

The Sutures

  • Regular surgical Catgut, Silk or Cotton thread.
  • Domestic sewing thread.
  • Vegetable or nylon fiber pre-selected by the operator.

The Needles

  • Regular surgical suturing needles
  • (round bodied or sharp and any size)
  • Domestic sewing needle.

Approximating the Wound

In some cases, instead of suturing together the raw edges of the wound, these are held together with thorns that are inserted on opposite sides of the wound and then laced together with thread and left in place for seven days or until the tissues of the wound have had time to fuse together. This type of infibulation is often practiced by nomads and agro–pastoralists.

Condition of Hands

  • No gloves are worn during the operation.
  • Hands may or may not be washed and in any case wet fingers are slippery and should the operator have difficulty in pinching the skin being removed, it is not unlikely for the operator to wipe his/her hands on the thighs of the child or even on the sand on the ground in order to dry them and thus improve dexterity!
  • The operator allows his/her nails to grow as they are used as pincers during operations. Rings, amulets and other hand ornaments are rarely removed, as these items are not recognized by the traditional healer as likely sources of contamination.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Female Genital Mutilation and the Middle East

In general, FGM in Asia and the Middle East is practiced for religious beliefs.  The majority of FGM support comes from Muslim communities.  Laws banning the practice have often not been successful in eliminating it and most countries have not outlawed FGM.

 FGM has been found in the following countries, though statistics are not always readily available:

  • Afghanistan (No national prevalence figures available)

  • Indonesia (No national prevalence figures available - Types I and IV)

  • Iran (No national prevalence figures available)

  • Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan (72.7% prevalence (excluding Dohuk), Types I and II)

  • Jordan (No national prevalence figures available)

  • Malaysia (No national prevalence figures available - Type IV)

  • Oman (No national prevalence figures available)

  • Pakistan (No national prevalence figures available)

  • Palestinian territories (No national prevalence figures available)

  • Saudi-Arabia (No national prevalence figures available)

  • Syria (No national prevalence figures available)

  • Tajikistan (No national prevalence figures available)

  • Turkey (No national prevalence figures available)

  • United Arab Emirates (No national prevalence figures available - Type I)

  • Yemen (23% prevalence in women 15 to 49)

In our campaign to end female genital mutilation, lets not forget this is a global problem.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Female Genital Mutilation - 'No African Problem Only'

For the longest time female circumcision was considered an ‘’African problem“, the practice was seen as rooted in African pre-Islamic, pre-Christian culture. For Yemen, the only non-African country where it was long known to exist, it was assumed to be imported from the African continent.

Newer evidence shows that these assumptions can’t be correct, neither geographically nor does the explanation suffice. The narrative already took a severe blow when it surfaced that FGM is prevalent in parts of the Kurdish region of North Iraq. Surveys in this region and lobby work in fact led to the inclusion of Iraq in those 29 countries UNICEF now considers to be those where the practice is concentrated.

By now it is evident that FGM is practiced in many more Asian countries. Small-scale surveys show its existence in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. In Oman and Pakistan media reports have tackled the issue. A broad discussion about bans and restrictions has been taken place in Indonesian media for years.

Religion or Culture

Female Genital Mutilation occurs in non-Muslim societies in Africa and is practiced by Christians, Muslims and Animists alike. In Egypt, where perhaps 97 percent of girls suffer genital mutilation, both Christian Copts and Muslims are complicit. Thus, it has long been concluded to be a cultural practice, not connected to religion.

However, on the village level, those who commit the practice offer a mix of cultural and religious reasons for the practice. Christians and Muslims alike believe that circumcision of girls prevents them from vice and makes them more attractive for future husbands; mothers fear that their daughters can’t get married if they have not been cut.

Sometimes myths have formed to justify FGM. Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, an expert on FGM who spent years in Kenya, Egypt, and Sudan, explains that “it is believed in the Sudan that the clitoris will grow to the length of a goose’s neck until it dangles between the legs, in rivalry with the male’s penis, if it is not cut.”

However, Muslim proponents of FGM also stress the religious necessity. Midwifes and mothers insist that it is “sunnah” – an opinion shared by most Islamic clerics. Yet, sunnah can either mean that a practice is religiously recommended or simply that it was done that way in the times of the prophet Mohammed.

While there is no mention of FGM in the Quran, a Hadith (saying about the life of the prophet) recounts a debate between Muhammed and Um Habibah (or Um ‘Atiyyah). This woman, known as an exciser of female slaves, was one of a group of women who had immigrated with Muhammed. Having seen her, Muhammad asked her if she kept practicing her profession. She answered affirmatively, adding: “unless it is forbidden, and you order me to stop doing it.” Muhammed replied: “Yes, it is allowed. Come closer so I can teach you: if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband.”

Most clerics use this hadith to say circumcision is recommended, but not obligatory for women. But some say it is obligatory. While others who take a position against FGM call this hadith weak in relation to the “do no harm” principle of Islam or interpret the intention of the prophet differently.

Let’s think about this as we carry on campaigning to end FGM!