Can we really end FGM in a generation?
On 22 July, the UK government held the first Girl Summit, a day that focused on how to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) in a generation. FGM is the deliberate mutilation of women’s genitalia and has life-long mental and physical affects on their health. The Girl Summit was a fantastic day, full of commitments from leaders and ministers.
Before we can achieve the goal of ending FGM in a generation in the UK, there are many issues we need to address:
We need to understand why FGM happens
Every girl around the world is born free and fearless. In countries where FGM is practiced, many young girls are left broken and fearful. FGM is a gross violation of women’s rights and is a reflection of deep rooted patriarchal structures. The practice of FGM oppresses women and girls. As a result, they are often afraid to assert their rights and thus are continually dominated by men. Men control the society we live in, and practices like FGM exist so women continue to be disempowered. Patriarchy allows men to violate the rights of women and girls with impunity. Men who condone the practice of FGM believe this will guarantee that their future wife will be a virgin and remove a desire for other men.
FGM is a mechanism that many men use to control women and girls. The clitoris is a threat for men and FGM happens so the threat, is taken away. It is a threat for men who believe in FGM because they believe, they can use it to control a woman’s sexual behavior. The idea that some men feel that if a woman has a clitoris, she will be succumb to emotion beyond her control when she sees a man, is absurd.
We need to have honest conversations
In an earlier post, I highlighted how people feel uncomfortable saying the word “vagina.” If we can not say vagina, how can we talk honestly and openly about FGM? We have to be comfortable to talk about FGM, and mainstream it, so that everyone realizes that FGM is everybody’s business. In the UK, the general public is becoming more aware of FGM, but people need to realize that the practice happens in the UK to British girls.
We need to use the right language
I am angry that FGM is still described as a cultural and traditional practice which occurs to retain family ‘honor.’ Dismissing FGM as a cultural and traditional practice allows it to continue and cements the cycle of violence. This promotes violence and abuse against women and girls. There is nothing honourable about having your daughter’s blood on your hands. It is murder. We need to stop using language which sugar coats the violence that women and girls experience. FGM is the most serious form of child abuse, it is a violation of the inalienable human rights of women and girls.
We need to empower young women
As a young person, I think we need to empower young people to stand up and speak out against practices like FGM. As a young woman, I feel that it is imperative that we empower young women so they can stand up against practices like FGM. We need young women to understand that FGM is a form of oppression.
There are 140 million women and girls currently living with the effects of this harmful practice and millions more at risk. We can not see FGM as a disease that we want to ‘eradicate.’ Before we can really “eradicate” FGM we need to see it as one form of oppression and violence against women and girls. Together we can change systems of patriarchy and gender inequality in order to end the vicious cycle of FGM.