For girls as young as three years-old, womanhood comes far too soon, as over half a million British girls are subjected to an extreme form of child abuse every year.
Snatching their childhood and replacing innocence with lifelong health implications.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also referred to as cutting, sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, is carried out as a cultural ‘rite of passage’ (that should be: violation of rights!), involving the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons, usually performed on young girls between infancy and the age of 15.
This International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, our organisation SSS Learning, is calling for more support for frontline professionals in the fight against FGM, to ensure that girls can live a life without fear and grow into confident, healthy young women in British society. From nurses, GPs and care workers, to teachers and voluntary sector workers, a united front is imperative to ensure that vulnerable girls do not slip through the net.
Sadly, families who support the practice of FGM don't think of it as abuse, yet the health implications are both immediate and long-term, affecting sex, relationships, childbirth and mental wellbeing throughout a woman’s life. The NHS is a good starting source of information.
This form of abuse is most common in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, however it is happening both here in the UK as well as abroad. If a girl is British born, she is protected under UK law, and FGM is illegal whether it’s conducted here or abroad.
If FGM is suspected, even if it's not recently, all frontline professionals are legally obligated to report it to the police. There are now severe penalties for carrying out or facilitating FGM to be carried out, including taking a girl abroad for the procedure. In addition, anyone (including teachers) knowing FGM is planned who fails to report this may found guilty of failing to protect a girl from FGM and can face up to seven years in prison.
In an education and societal system which promotes women’s rights, aims to blast the glass ceiling and help our young women excel in a plethora of career options including science and engineering. Such deep-rooted inequality and discrimination has no place in the UK. If we unite as frontline professionals, the fight to end FGM is within our grasp!
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