• International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

    By Karen Dickinson

    **This piece contains references to content that some readers may find upsetting or triggering**

    February 6th marks the United Nation’s International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. The campaign aims to raise awareness and educate people on the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is the practice of intentionally altering or injuring the female genital organ for non-medical purposes. The UN says of FGM:

    “It reflects a deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”



    FGM is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed and is also known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘cutting’, and by other terms such as gudniin, sunna, halalays, tuhur and megrez, amongst others. It can lead to bleeding, pain, loss of sensitivity, childbirth complications, severe pain during sex, infection, inhibited sexual pleasure and even death. The National Education Toolkit for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting Awareness (NETFA) says that the practice often reveals ‘a combination of socially, economically and culturally ingrained perceptions about gender’ and lists the following reasons that it is carried out:

    • The belief that it enhances hygiene, fertility and child survival
    • The belief that it reinforces cultural identity or complies with local cultural attitudes about ‘beauty’
    • The belief that the practice contributes to social cohesion and family honour
    • The belief that it ensures a girl’s chastity before marriage and her fidelity within marriage
    • The belief that it inhibits sexual promiscuity
    • The belief that it is a religious observance, even though it is not required by any religion
    • In many communities where it is practiced, Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting is viewed as an initiation into womanhood and a prerequisite for marriage.

    Globally, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have been subject to some form of FGM, and it is estimated that within the UK, up to 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are currently at risk. FGM is a form of child abuse, as well as a form of gender based violence, and is illegal in the UK, but no prosecutions have ever been made, despite of evidence that it does exist.

    Bristol charity Integrate UK is one of many organisations that is raising awareness and campaigning to put a stop to FGM. They run workshops in secondary schools to raise awareness of the dangers and issues of FGM and encourage the topic to be brought out into the open, bringing education to mothers and ‘elders’ in communities where the practice happens. Integrate UK have worked with young people to create a fun but meaningful song called #MyClitoris, which makes it clear that no form of FGM is acceptable.


    Learn more and support the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation by visiting the UN’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation page and the Integrate UK website.

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