Female genital mutilation is recognised as a violation of human rights, banned by the UN and illegal in 30 countries, including the UK. Globally, 140 million women and girls are living with the consequences of being cut and a further 3 million girls are at risk of being cut each year.
Despite these appalling statistics, female genital mutilation is a topic that many still haven’t heard of, let alone talked about. We at ActionAid want to change that. We want to raise awareness about what female genital mutilation is and we want the practice to end. Here are four reasons why.
1. Ending female genital mutilation is about human rights
We are all born with the same human rights, no matter who we are or where we are from. Cutting away a girl’s genitals for no medical reason is a clear violation of her human rights and causes long-term physical and psychological harm.
2. The arguements for female genital mutilation are unjustifiable
Many people believe female genital mutilation is referred to in religious teachings while young girls are told it will keep them clean and pure before marriage. In actual fact, female genital mutilation is used as a way of controlling a girl’s sexuality by making sex extremely painful. It can also cause severe bleeding, infection, infertility and death. Nothing can justify putting a child through such an experience.
3. It doesn’t just affect women
Atuko from West Pokot, Kenya is father to five daughters. He has seen the impact of female genital mutilation on his two eldest daughters and now refuses to let his other daughters be cut. Atuko says, “Female genital mutilation harms girls and is wrong. I am trying to tell other men in my community that they shouldn’t push their daughters into it. It is better to educate the girls so they can get jobs.”
4. It’s something that happens in the UK too
Female genital mutilation doesn’t just happen abroad, it happens in the UK too. In fact, until the 1950s, female genital mutilation was used in England as a treatment for “female deviances”. But despite being illegal here since 1985, there has not been a single prosecution in the last 28 years.
Speak out and get support
Although ActionAid’s work on female genital mutilation is with communities across Africa, there are many organisations in the UK that support young people at risk of female genital mutilation:
Child Line – 0800 1111
NSPCC – 0800 028 3550
ForwardUK – 020 8960 4000
The Metropolitan Police Service has a dedicated service for girls at risk of female genital mutilation (Project Azure) – 020 7161 2888
If you think a child is in immediate danger of being cut or of being taken abroad for this to happen, you should call the police straight away on 999.