May 2017

Highlighting the Issue of Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation (FGC/FGM)

Investigating the Issue of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) - International Women's Day

Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation (FGC/FGM) is back in the news in the run-up to the General Election on 8 June, with the issue being highlighted by several of the political parties.

LSBM was visited in March by three organisations, at the invitation of Usha Mistry, Head of Programme Development at LSBM, to discuss the subject of FGC, which affects more than 200 million women worldwide, with a further 3.6 million new cases each year.

This is an important issue in terms of protecting women's rights, and one which Usha wanted to make our growing student body aware of. So we are choosing to draw attention to it on our blog this month to further raise awareness.



FGC is defined as follows by the Orchid Project (the founder of whom, Julia was one of the speakers at the LSBM event in March):
 

 

“The partial or complete removal of a girl’s external genitals. There are no known health benefits, and in fact the girl’s body is physically harmed and damaged as a result of the practice and the removal of healthy tissue when her genitals are cut away. The effects on girls and women who have had FGC carried out are long lasting and wide ranging, and for many will cause problems, including physical and psychological damage, throughout their lives. FGC may also be referred to as female genital mutilation, or FGM and contravenes human, women’s and child rights.”


The practice exists predominantly in around 30 countries where it is often still commonly considered culturally ‘normal’ (despite being against the law in those same countries), and is usually carried out on girls before the age of 5.

The procedure that is carried out is categorised into four main types, depending on the amount of cutting as follows:

Type 1: The clitoris or clitoral hood is partially or fully removed (also known as clitoridectomy).

Type 2: As well as the clitoris, the labia minora are partially or fully removed. The labia majora may also be cut.

Type 3: The clitoris, labia minora and labia majora are cut away, and the remaining skin is sewn or sealed together leaving a tiny hole for menstrual blood and urine. This is commonly known as infibulation.

Type 4: All other harmful procedures to the female genitals including pricking, piercing, rubbing, scraping and the use of herbs or other substances.


Type 3 is considered to be the most severe form of FGC. If the woman later becomes pregnant, then the skin is often re-sown after labour, which is painful, and means they will have to re-live the FGC experience even as an adult.

Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE, the CEO and Founder of the charity the Orchid Project, which actively campaigns and takes action to end FGC around the world, spoke at the LSBM event and indicated that around 10% of cases fall into Type 3 (which is also often called ‘pharaonic’ in reference to early historical links to the practice by Pharaohs in ancient Egypt). The majority of cases still come under Types 1 or 2.

A partial list of countries where FGC is prevalent among over 65% of women aged 15 to 49 would include Somalia (98%),  Eritrea (89%), Mali (89%), Egypt (87%) and Ethiopia (65%).There are also significant amounts of women and girls in other large countries where FGC is still a common practice. For example, in Indonesia, a country with a population of over 250 million people, 49% of girls aged 11 and under have undergone FGC, and in Nigeria, a country with a population of over 175 million, 25% of women aged between 15 and 49 have suffered FGC.

In the USA, CNN recently reported on May 11 2017 that the number of girls and women in the US who have undergone the procedure or are at risk of it has more than tripled (to over 500,000) between 1990 and 2012.

So this is a massive problem globally.

Julia Lala-Maharajh made the point in her speech at LSBM that FGC has no basis in medical treatment. It is a social practice. There is no actual reason to do it, and the harm that it causes is significant.

It is NOT a ‘reversible’ procedure.

 

The list of physical, emotional and psychological problems that can occur as a result of FGC would include the following ten: (OrchidProject.org)

  1. Death
  2. Infertility
  3. Depression and Anxiety
  4. Increased risk of childbirth complications
  5. Trouble passing urine
  6. Painful periods
  7. Potentially reliving the original procedure during sex and childbirth
  8. Makes sexual intercourse painful and traumatic the first time
  9. Makes sexual intercourse painful and traumatic on an on-going basis
  10. Reduced female sexual pleasure

 


So why does it happen?

Given all of these possible effects you might reasonably wonder why the practice still continues.

The reasons are many. But the main one is that it is a social norm that has been practised for thousands of years, and is a tradition that has gathered wide-spread social acceptance among many communities.

Research shows that FGC is not a religious requirement, and there are many good reasons NOT to do it. But often the social sanctions that accompany any such decision are given more weight in the decision. Especially where mothers and fathers may believe (often with good reason), that NOT allowing their daughters to undergo the procedure may affect their future social acceptance into a group where it is considered the norm.

 

What can be done?

Boulel - Female Genital Cutting (FGC) - International Women's DayJulia spoke about some of the practical measures that the Orchid Project is taking to try to combat FGC.

The shift needs to happen at the level of an entire community, because the nature of a ‘social norm’ is that change at an individual level risks ostracism from the group.

So, the Orchid Project aims to shift entire communities from:

‘All girls are cut’

to

‘All girls are not cut’.

In order to achieve this they work with communities to involve everyone and talk about human rights, disease, psychological and emotional issues, and the reality of what FGC really means for the girls concerned.

The whole community needs to be involved, and discussions occur which lead to the community being asked to not cut.

If the whole community agrees, then there is a declaration ceremony of abandonment to mark the moment when the community social norm shifts to ‘All girls are not cut’, and surrounding communities are invited along to witness it, so that it becomes like a rolling stone that gathers momentum to seed the idea to surrounding communities that this is the new ‘social norm’ for all communities in that area. 

Just this month in May 2017, the Orchid Project announced that 117 communities declared abandonment of FGC in the Kolda region of Senegal, and a further 57 declared abandonment on 21 May 2017.

So far over 8,000 communities across six African countries have experienced this radical shift, so it has been tremendously successful and empowering for women, and also the communities in which they live.

If you would like to donate to the important work of the Orchid Project then you can do so on their website, or else get in touch with them, to offer your support to fundraise.

Donations - https://orchidproject.org/donation-3/

Fundraising and Support - https://orchidproject.org/support-us/fundraise/

 

 

FGC in the UK…

Project Azure - Metropolitan Police

The other two speakers who kindly came along to speak to our students in March were Detective Constable Debbie Crowder from the Metropolitan Police ‘Project Azure’ and Ms Kemi Ogunsanya, an Adviser in the Gender Section of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Project Azure is a specialist unit which handles the Police response to cases of FGC in the UK, and the Gender Section of the Commonwealth Secretariat provides guidance on policy making, technical assistance and advisory services to Commonwealth member countries.

DC Debbie Crowder spoke about some of the statistics related to FGC in the UK.

FGC is now covered by the Serious Crime Act 2015 (though it has been illegal in the UK since 1985), but there have been no successful convictions and only 44 mandatory reports to the Met Police in the 15 months up to March 2017.

In 2010 the Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Crime reported on the subject of Female Genital Mutilation and point 24 of that report is perhaps most telling in highlighting that more progress needs to be made:

"24. As previously stated the UK has had no prosecutions for FGM since 1985 when specific legislation was introduced. Throughout the world, but particularly in Europe, where countries have specific legislation against FGM, the situation is mirrored with few or no convictions." (my bolding)

In March 2013, the UK Coalition Government announced funding of £35 million to help to eradicate the practice of FGC in the UK.

There have been some active operations around the issue of FGC since, such as this one at Heathrow Airport in September 2016, but a search on the Met Police website for ‘Project Azure’ only brings up that single result (http://news.met.police.uk)

A search for ‘female genital cutting’ brings up this single article, from October 2016, which is Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt speaking generally about the Police's approach to child protection, and a search for 'female genital mutilation' brings up a further two stories from August 2016 and December 2016, only one of which is directly about FGM.

If you would like to contact the Project Azure team then you can email them at projectazure@met.police.uk

The Child Abuse Investigation Command (of which Project Azure is a part) can also be contacted on 0207 161 2888.

Julia from the Orchid Project suggested at the talk that over 100,000 girls and women in the UK are affected by FGC (and the NSPCC estimates the number as 137,000), so the figure of 44 reports to the Police in 15 months, does seem disproportionately low in comparison to the suspected problem.

 

Attention for the issue in London

The issue is however now gaining wider attention and in April 2017 the London Assembly published a report on 'Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in London' which you can read here.

The data in the report shows that around 50% of all new cases of FGC in the UK (as reported by NHS trusts, rather than the Police) happen in London, and that five boroughs (Brent, Southwark, Enfield, Lambeth and Ealing) accounted for 1,180 newly recorded cases between April 2015 and March 2016. So this is very much an issue that is of immediate concern in London.

The report had 8 recommendations to help to tackle FGM:

1/ The Mayor must take a visible lead and speak out against FGM. The delivery of the Mayor's Police and Crime Plan must demonstrate his commitment and drive a more effective multi-agency response to FGM, with a shared vision across organisations and aspirations for action.

2/ We propose that the Mayor champions a communication strategy, including a pan-London campaign to raise awareness of the real risks and dangers of FGM, reaching a wide audience and signposting women and girls to the support they require.

3/ The Mayor should regularly engage with communities affected by FGM to raise awareness, strengthen community-based prevention work and engage them in providing training for professionals.

4/ The Mayor must actively support the provision of enhanced multi-agency and bespoke training for London's front-line practitioners.

5/ The Mayor should lead the way in bringing agencies together to standardise the recording of FGM related information. We also ask that he supports the collation of good practice and qualitative and quantitative data from across London's agencies to provide a robust evidence base and informed response to FGM.

6/ The Mayor must make clear the support he will give to the police, health, social care and education services, voluntary organisations and communities to help move London towards a 'zero cutting city'.

7/ Long-term sustainable investment in preventing and tackling FGM should be a funding priority for the Mayor.

8/ The Mayor should explore options for joined up pan-London commissioning for FGM services.

 

Ms Kemi Ogunsanya also spoke at our event in March 2017 about some of the Commonwealth Secretariats approaches to the issue, which included strengthening partnerships with governments in the commonwealth to try to effect cultural changes.

If you want to get an accurate feel for the scope of the issue across the world, then UNICEF publishes detailed, country by country statistics which can be freely accessed here. These cover the countries where it is thought the problem is greatest. (Even with Julia’s estimate of over 100,000 women affected by FGC in the UK, the UK doesn’t make the list, which gives an idea of the scale of the problem globally).

 

Getting Help

If you, or someone you know has been affected by FGC then there are a number of places you can go to for help.

Firstly, in the UK the NHS offers this advice about Getting help and support if you've had FGM or are worried that someone you know is at risk.

You can also speak to Childline (0800 1111) who offer this specific advice about FGM.

"If you think you're in immediate danger of being cut or being taken abroad for this to happen you can call the police (dial 999), or you could speak to a teacher or adult you trust. The police are there to keep you safe.

If you are worried that you might be forced to have FGM in the future, talk to a trusted adult, such as a teacher at school or doctor. You don't have to worry alone."

You can also talk to Samaritans (116 123).

The Telegraph highlighted an app aimed at both helping and raising the profile of FGC in the UK in July 2015.

The Orchid Project can be contacted here and they offer the following advice:

"If you are worried that a child may be at risk of FGC, contact the NSPCC anonymously on their 24 hour helpline on 0800 028 3550 or email fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk. FORWARD or Daughters of Eve also provide advice and support."

The NSPCC also have a dedicated advice page about FGM here.

Daughters of Eve offers the following advice:

"FGM is a dangerous practice and is against the law. If you or someone you know is in immediate risk of harm you can call the emergency services by dialling 999. The police and health services recognise FGM and can protect you from harm.

  • For more advice you can contact Crime Stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via their website.
  • The Metropolitan Police Service have a dedicated service for girls at risk of FGM. Call their Child Abuse Investigation Command/Project Azure on 0207 161 2888.
  • If you would like to contact Daughters of Eve you can email using the form here or text us on 0798 303 0488."

FORWARD offers the following advice:

"It is illegal to perform or force someone to undergo FGM. If you fear that you, or someone you know, is at risk of FGM you can seek support from the following:

NSPCC – have a helpline dedicated to FGM that is anonymous and open 24/7, you can call them on: 0800 028 3550

Your Local Social Services Department – your local social services department will be able to protect you or provide support, you can contact them through your local council

Your Local Police Child Protection Unit – your local child protection unit will be able to protect you or provide support, you can contact them through your local police station. If you are in London you can also contact the Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Command on 020 7161 2888.

For more information on services available and one-to-one support you can call FORWARD on 0208 960 4000. We are open Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm or email us at support@forwarduk.org.uk."

Remember that performing or forcing someone to undertake FGC is a crime. So, there is a wide availability of help from a number of different charities, support services and the Police that you can get advice, assistance and redress from.

If you are in immediate danger you should call 999.

 

Thanks…

We would like to thank Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE, CEO and Founder of the Orchid Project, DC Debbie Crowder from the Metropolitan Police ‘Project Azure’ team and Ms Kemi Ogunsanya, Adviser Gender Section of the Commonwealth Secretariat for taking the time to come and talk to LSBM students about this important human rights issue in March and for raising awareness about it. (Pictured below)

You can keep updated with the latest news about FGC in the UK on the Orchid Project website here and here, and also on this special FGM section of The Guardian website.

Investigating the Issue of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) - International Women's Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart Brown
Media and Content Manager

 

Pictured: (From left to right)
Usha Mistry - Head of Programme Development, LSBM
Shannon Mcgrellis - LLB (Hons) Law (2 Year Accelerated), LSBM student
DC Debbie Crowder - Metropolitan Police Officer - Project Azure
Ms Haje Keli - PhD candidate at the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS, working title of her thesis is: ‘An analysis of the gender-based violence in Iraqi Kurdistan – state, society and family violence.’
Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE – Founder and CEO, Orchid Project
Ms Kemi Ogunsanya - Adviser Gender Section, Commonwealth Secretariat
Faye Al Hindawi - LLB (Hons) Law (3 Year), LSBM student

Partners and Accreditations

Get In Touch

  • London School of Business and Management
  • 1 Malet Street, London, WC1E 7JN.