Post archive

RITES - a play to explore the issue of FGM

DARF is excited to have been involved in a new theatre production from the National Theatre of Scotland.... Rites is a powerful and provocative new production exploring the deep-rooted cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation. Book your tickets on the National Theatre of Scotland's website.

Tackling Female Genital Mutilation in Scotland - a Scottish model of intervention

In December 2014, Scottish Refugee Council released a report on tackling female genital mutilation in Scotland.  This scoping study sets out a number of recommendations for prevention and response interventions and makes interesting reading.

Visit Scottish Refugee Council's website to find out more, or to download the full report.

Girl Summit

On July 22nd 2014, the UK Government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) hosted a ‘Girl Summit’ in London. The summit aimed to galvanise international support to inspire local and international efforts to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) in a generation. Speakers included the UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Girls’ Education champion Malala Yousafzai, and Home Secretary Theresa May. DARF was part of this great moment which brought together young people, community activists, traditional and faith leaders, government and international leaders, experts and champions, all committed to the rights and empowerment of women and girls.

On the day of the summit, several million pounds were committed by governments and charities to tackling female genital mutilation and child marriage within a generation. One of the astonishing outcome of this event was the pledge and support of 900 million people worldwide online to end FGM and CEFM. David Cameron promised that commitments made during the summit will be followed up. He said “rather than just signing agreements, just passing laws, we have actually committed to doing everything we can, to outlaw these practices globally. That is the commitment that we have made. That is the commitment that all these countries have made."

The Girl Summit highlights the fact that FGM and CEFM are at the top of the global agenda and that it’s time to stop using culture and tradition as an excuse for these harmful traditional practices. As Malala Yousafzai said, “We should not be followers of traditions that go against human rights. Traditions are neither sent from heaven, nor from God. We human beings make traditions and we can change traditions.”

Female genital mutilation: Scotland's government to ask all schools to act

Scotland's government said it would be writing to every headteacher in the nation asking them to train their staff and educate parents about female genital mutilation.

The intervention by the Scottish education secretary comes in the wake of a Guardian campaign to raise awareness in schools which has gathered more than 126,000 signatures since it launched.

Michael Russell said he would be writing to every Scottish headteacher calling on them to train teachers and parents about the warning signs and risks of FGM.

"A key part of eradicating the practice entirely is education – which is why I, alongside equalities minister Shona Robison, will be writing to headteachers across Scotland in order to reach out to teachers and parents on this very difficult issue."

Asking the UK's education ministers to write to schools about female genital mutilation is the core demand of a campaign led by 17-year-old Fahma Mohamed to help stamp out the barbaric practice. Government figures say 20,000 British girls are at risk of being cut every year.

She praised Holyrood for taking a bold step towards tackling FGM.

Mohamed said: "I want to congratulate Scotland for stepping up to the challenge and listening to us – it shows that it is amazing what you can achieve with dedication and passion.

"I'm overjoyed that girls in Scotland will be safer and above all it will protect the next generation by breaking the cycle of abuse."

The move was at odds with the Department for Education in Westminster, which remained silent on the issue and did not answer questions from the Guardian.

Mohamed, part of a Somali family who moved to Britain when she was seven, said: "I have a question for Michael Gove – is he scared of me? I'm just a student who is passionate about this, and apparently he just wants to ignore this issue and hope it will go away."

Norman Baker, the Home Office minister and government lead on FGM, has said he would be writing to Gove to draw his attention to the Guardian's campaign, while the Liberal Democrat president, Tim Farron, and his party colleagues Julian Huppert and Greg Mulholland tabled an early day motion in parliament calling on the government and education department to do everything in their power to stop the practice.

On Friday night the shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, backed the Guardian's campaign and praised the government for showing leadership on the issue after it introduced a duty on hospitals to report new cases and funding for training and raising awareness.

"There are lots of areas where I would want to criticise the government but to be fair to them they have rightly prioritised this issue. Credit to the Guardian too for the same," he said.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) joined campaigners and activists calling on Gove to show leadership on FGM. Its general secretary, Russell Hobby, said that the NAHT had called on the government to update advice on FGM in schools and that Gove should take the lead on the issue.

"For this reason NAHT strongly endorses the Guardian's petition calling on the secretary of state to take the lead in encouraging schools to address this issue seriously," he said. "Schools can make a difference because of the trust in which they are held. NAHT believes that FGM exceeds the limits of tolerance in our society."

Headteachers echoed the call to action. Gladys Berry, the head of Highbury Fields school in London, which ran a programme of lessons with pupils last year, said: "Headteachers need a letter from the Department of Education; some will be anxious about the reaction from different parts of the community so they need to feel that it is appropriate and necessary to teach FGM in their school.

"Unless we can educate children in the classroom, cases will not come to light and we will not know about those who are at risk."

Another London headteacher, Bavaani Nanthabalan, added: "The Department of Education has never communicated with schools directly on FGM or given us any guidelines. It is a hugely sensitive issue.

"A supportive letter from Mr Gove encouraging us to raise awareness of this issue in schools would help schools address this serious problem in a sensitive way. Schools can do more to protect girls at risk of FGM with the right support from the government."

Leyla Hussein, herself a victim of FGM and one of Britain's most high-profile campaigners, said she couldn't understand why the Department for Education was so reluctant to write to schools directly.

"It's amazing that Michael Gove can write a letter to headteachers telling them to improve discipline in schools and not write a letter about making it mandatory to teach FGM. I just don't get it." Hussein, who described Mohamed as "incredibly brave", added: "Education has always been the missing link when it comes to fighting FGM."

Nimko Ali, who founded the campaign group Daughters of Eve with Hussein, said: "Every other minister has spoken out on this. Gove is the only one that hasn't. I just don't think he cares about the social wellbeing of children; it is only about academic achievement. He doesn't want to talk about a child's safety, but he will talk about Latin. It's like he doesn't care and that is very sad."


FGM is happening in Scotland

Young girls 'brought to Scotland for illegal mutilation'

Young girls are being brought to ­Scotland to have illegal female "circumcisions" because those involved believe there is less chance of being caught in this country.

Families from England and Europe have been travelling to Scotland to have their daughters undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), while girls living in Glasgow and Edinburgh have also had to endure the barbaric practice.

While health and child welfare ­officials fear thousands of young girls are at risk and insist the issue is a real problem, no-one has been prosecuted.

The UN estimates that FGM affects 130 million women in more than 35 different countries - including Somalia, Sudan and Indonesia.

Outlawed in the UK in 1985, it takes many forms but traditionally involves the full or partial removal of young girls' genitals. The cutting is carried out for a number of reasons but in many cases girls are cut to improve their marriage prospects.

Specialist agencies say that in many families daughters are cut because it is a social norm.

The most extreme type of FGM is often fatal. Health implications include haemorrhage, infection, psychological trauma and high infant and maternal mortality rates.

Police say it is still a hidden crime here.

The revelations form part of Cutting Love, a BBC investigation that will be aired on BBC Radio Scotland this weekend.

Anela Anwar of Scottish charity Roshni said: "Because Scotland has been lacking somewhat in a prosecution, families are coming up from England and Wales into Scotland to have the practice carried out and that is certainly concerning if Scotland is now being viewed as a place that doesn't take the issue of female genital mutilation seriously."

The 2011 census shows the number of people in Scotland from some countries that practise FGM has more than doubled in the past decade.

Agencies say many people do not realise it is illegal in the UK. Specialists say families from Birmingham, London, Manchester and France have come to Scotland to have their daughters cut here.

They say there are "cutters" in the community and, in some cases, families pool funds to fly over someone from Africa or the Middle East to allow several girls to be mutilated at the same time at a "cutting party".

Ms Anwar added: "We've heard of people travelling to Birmingham and even families coming up from Birmingham, Manchester, London. We've also heard stories of people coming from France to the UK and Scotland in particular, to have the practice carried out."

The Dignity Alert and Research Forum (DARF) in Edinburgh estimates that, in 2009, there were 3000 women living in Scotland who had been cut. Since then they say the figures have increased.

Fatou Baldeh of DARF said: "Other European countries bring their children to the UK.

"The UK is behind and among the UK, Scotland is very poor in tackling FGM and supporting victims."

She added: "Because it's getting expensive to take a daughter back home and circumcise or mutilate them, what women are doing is they will put together money and bring over someone who can cut the girls."

Police Scotland has identified almost 3000 school pupils across Scotland from countries where FGM is prevalent. They are talking to education directors to look at how to raise teachers' awareness of the issue. In Glasgow they plan to target more than 1600 children who may be at risk.

Detective Chief Superintendent Gill Imery of Police Scotland said every daughter born here to a woman who has undergone FGM should be considered a child protection case.

"It most definitely is a form of child abuse and would be investigated as such," she said.

However, she revealed the force had not received a single referral from health. Police Scotland has dealt with fewer than 10 cases since April this year.

DCS Imery added: "We've dealt with six investigations or incidents in relation to FGM that have resulted in a form of intervention which we hope has prevented children undergoing this procedure, but none of the reports has resulted in an investigation of a crime, or a report to the procurator-fiscal.

"We're doing a huge amount to raise awareness within our own staff, looking at unexplained absences from school and working with our partners in education to intervene. Health also has a significant role, and it's perhaps through ante-natal care, midwifery that we will actually have tangible evidence of FGM, and that certainly hasn't been reported to us."


Sarah McCulloch, director of specialist agency ACCMUK, said: "What we need is a change in approach - the legislation is there. In the UK, I think the government, the police, the social services are too politically correct to want to do anything."

Scottish Equalities Minister Shona Robison said: "Anyone aware of FGM taking place has a legal and moral duty to report it. The police have assured us that they investigate all reported incidents and there is strong legislation in place to prosecute in cases of FGM.

"Anyone aiding or carrying out FGM, either here or abroad, faces up to 14 years imprisonment. Between 2012 and 2015, £34.5 million has been allocated to tackle violence against women, including FGM. Monitoring a sensitive issue like FGM is difficult. The Government will continue to tackle this abuse of human rights."


Two held for FGM on baby

Two held by Scotland Yard detectives for FGM on baby less than two months old

Two people have been arrested by Met detectives over the genital mutilation of a baby girl less than two months old, the Standard has learned.

The alleged perpetrators and their victim, under- stood to have been five to six weeks old when the “cutting” was done, all live in Britain. Police hope the arrests could lead to a landmark first British prosecution for female genital mutilation.

Sources say the victim’s age is unprecedented and extensive efforts are being made to gather the evidence needed to bring charges. The barbaric practice — which can involve the removal of all or parts of the labia and clitoris or the sewing up of the vagina — has been illegal in Britain since 1985.

No charges have been brought since then as secrecy and a lack of reporting have hindered police efforts to enforce the law.

Detectives believe evidence about the mutilation of the baby girl could now lead to a breakthrough and have submitted a file to prosecutors. But because the surgery was carried  out overseas they are still unsure whether charges can be brought.

The reason is that under legislation passed in 2003, making it a crime to take or send a girl abroad for genital mutilation, either the victim or the alleged offenders must be UK citizens or permanently resident here.

In the baby’s case, it is understood that although she is now a British national it is unclear whether she was when mutilated. Also the two alleged perpetrators were not permanently resident here at the time.

Medical records are being sought to determine when the alleged crime took place. If it was after the girl got her UK passport, a prosecution is expected to be approved.

The new Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, said just days ago that a first prosecution for FGM could come “relatively shortly”, with at least one case offering a “possibility” of charges.

Those comments are thought to relate to the case of an older victim.

That means a first criminal charge for FGM could still be imminent even if legal problems block a prosecution in the baby girl’s case.


FGM in Scotland - Census 2011

Preliminary analysis of the Census 2011 data and the information below gives an indication of the number of women in Scotland who come from countries where FGM is practised.  However, bear in mind that:

  1. There is no evidence that all women and girls aged 15 – 49 from practising countries have undergone FGM
  2. It is not the case that women who have been mutilated will automatically mutilate their daughters
  3. The rate of prevalence varies from country to country and focusing on the highest rate may result neglecting women and girls from countries with a low rate as well as those from mixed marriages.

Census 2011

‘At least 2351 women (aged 15-49) resident in Scotland in 2001 were born in an FGM practising country. Based on the prevalence of FGM in those countries (using data from DHS/MICS surveys), at least 588 women resident in Scotland in 2001 were estimated to have undergone FGM.

It is likely that this figure is an underestimate, as:

  1. Information on country of birth is not available for all people enumerated in the census. In 2001, there were 216 women who said they were born in Africa, but did not state which country.
  2. 273 girls (aged under 15) resident in Scotland in 2001 were born in an FGM practising country, and therefore also at risk of undergoing / having undergone FGM.
  3. The census does not identify second generation women who may be subject to FGM. Between 1997 and 2011 (inclusive), 2,403 girls were born in Scotland to a mother who was born in an FGM practising country.
  4. Initial data from the 2011 Census show that the number of people resident in Scotland who were born in Africa has more than doubled since the 2001 Census (from 22,049 to 46,742).

Source: Gender & LGBT Equality & Violence Against Women Team, The Scottish Government

Is training for school staff progress in the fight against FGM in the UK?

Ofsted to quiz heads on efforts to stop female genital mutilation

School inspectors are to question headteachers on their efforts to combat female genital mutilation (FGM), as part of a government attempt to ensure public bodies live up to their responsibilities to protect children from the practice.

Ofsted officials will demand proof that schools have "safeguarding policies" which deal with FGM, including training their staff to identify "at risk" pupils and inform the police if they believe girls are in danger of being taken abroad to undergo the agonising procedure.

Proposals to introduce a specific question on FGM into the standard school inspection procedure were agreed at the Home Office last week, during a "round-table" debate about ways of stamping out the practice. The debate took place amid growing fears that thousands of British schoolgirls are taken back to their parents' home countries every year to be forcibly mutilated.

Prosecutors fear the fight against FGM is being hindered by the failure of many public authorities to maintain data on the practice, or to devise policies to identify and tackle it.

An IoS survey last week revealed that barely 50 out of more than 500 UK councils, hospitals and police forces could produce figures on the incidence of girls or women found to have suffered FGM, or deemed to be at risk of it.

An action plan spearheaded by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has set out the demand for the collection of "more robust data on allegations of FGM, so the scale of the problem can be gauged".

The Conservative MP Jane Ellison, chair of the all-party FGM group, said Ofsted inspections were a perfect opportunity to ensure schools were meeting their responsibilities.

"Ofsted are already training their own inspectors on FGM. Asking a specific question on the subject during their inspections will ensure that everyone is doing what is expected of them," she said.

"There is nothing that concentrates a school's mind more than the thought that a negative comment on any issue might appear in their inspection report."


Is the UK considered a soft touch for those wanting to put their daughters through FGM?

Migrants from Europe bringing girls to tolerant Britain for genital mutilation

The UK has a reputation for being so tolerant of female genital mutilation (FGM) that parents from some African communities in mainland Europe are bringing their daughters to Britain solely to have them cut – "sometimes during group sessions" – BBC's Newsnight discovered. While the penalties are tough in France – more than 100 people have been convicted there, serving prison sentences of up to 13 years – Britain has never carried out a single prosecution for FGM.

Some 20,000 girls are at risk of being mutilated in cities across Britain, according to Forward, the leading group campaigning in the UK against FGM.

Amina Yahaya, an 18-year-old British-Somali student living in Bristol, said she knew of "FGM parties" being held in the city. "They cut them all together, as a group," she explained, "because it is cheaper. At first, the girls are all excited because it's a party, until they realise what is going to happen, and then they get frightened."


Nine jailed for FGM in Ivory Coast

Nine jailed for 'female genital mutilation'

Nine women have been sentenced to jail terms for the female circumcision of around 30 young girls, in what the UN said was the first criminal prosecution of its kind in Ivory Coast.

The women, aged between 46 and 91, were found guilty of "female genital mutilation" or complicity on Wednesday and each sentenced to a year in jail and a 75- euro ($90-dollar) fine.

Although UN officials said they did not expect them to serve their sentences due to their age, they welcomed the convictions as an important first step.

"This sentence is the first of its kind in Ivory Coast" and would help to prevent future cases of female circumcision, Patrick Yedress of the United Nations Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI), told AFP at court.

The circumcisions were carried out during a ritual ceremony in the northern town of Katiola in February.

In the past, there were arrests of women who had conducted circumcisions, but the cases were settled without going to court following the intervention of relatives and local communities, said Suzanne Maiga of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

A national inquiry in 2006 found that female circumcision affected 36 percent of the female population. A UN study put the figure at 42 percent.

The practice is particularly prevalent among northern Muslims and animists in the west of the country where up to 80 percent of females are circumcised despite a 1998 ban and numerous initiatives aimed at eradicating it.

Last year a three-year-old girl from near Katiola died after undergoing the procedure.

A woman who performs genital cutting shows a knife she uses during a gathering to denounce excision in Abidjan.

File photo.
Image by:

15-day-old Columbian Girl Dies After Undergoing FGM

Colombian baby girl dies after circumcision

Colombia Reports - Indigenous

A 15-day-old baby from an indigenous tribe in western Colombia has died after her clitoris was removed in a banned ancestral practice, reported Radio Caracol Monday.

The infant, who died of a haemorrage, belonged to the Embera-Chami tribe in the Valle de Cauca department, which pledged in 2010 to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The mayor of Ansermanuevo, Jose Luis Herrera, said the baby had left the hospital in good health. "The case [has been referred] to the governor of the community, because they had promised to stop these activities," he said.

The death of a young Embera-Chami girl in 2007 brought attention to the practice of FGM among the tribe, which has a population of about 5,000.

The United Nations Population Fund approached Embera-Chami leaders to ask if it could start a community project exploring the origins of FGM in the tribe and teaching about the physical and psychological harm it causes.

It was discovered it probably dated from the time of colonial rule, when there had been a lot of contact with African communities brought to Colombia as slaves.

After one year of work, the community decided it would stop the practice for a trial period of two years. At the end of the two years, it was decided to end the practice permanently and enforce severe punishments for anyone who carried it out.


Annual Report 2011 for the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM/C

Annual Report 2011 for the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

Direct Link to Full Report:

The Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is being carried out in 15 African countries: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Senegal, Somalia and Sudan.

The 2011 annual report highlights the gains, challenges and best practices for the abandonment of FGM/C and offers select indicators on progress in policy and advocacy, capacity building, partnerships and media coverage. FGM/C campaign highlights in 2011 included a West African fatwa against cutting, Guinea-Bissau’s criminalization of FGM/C and the high rate of abandonment in Senegal, where 760 communities declared an end to cutting and child/forced marriage.

In addition, up to 8,000 African communities declared their abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting, more than 18,000 community education sessions were held and almost 3,000 religious leaders publicly declared that the rite should end.

The report also features extensive information on progress by each of the 15 countries.

In 2011, a continuing core feature of the programme was not only forging partnerships but also ongoing offers of technical support and information to relevant parties, including to the General Assembly and the World Health Assembly. In addition, the programme maintained advocacy and discussions with the British Parliament debating FGM/C; participated in helping to start a research institute on FGM/C in Nairobi; and took part at an African Union meeting on harmful traditional practices.


Almost 2,000 African Communities End FGM/C in 2011

2,000 More African Communities End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in 2011

UNITED NATIONS, New York— Almost 2,000 communities across Africa have abandoned female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in 2011. This brought the total number of communities renouncing the practice to 8,000 over the last few years, according to new findings by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“These encouraging findings show that social norms and cultural practices are changing, and communities are uniting to protect the rights of girls and women,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C, 6 February. “We call on the global community to join us in this critical effort. Together, we can end FGM/C in one generation and help millions of girls and women to live healthier, fuller lives, and reach their potential.”

The new report, Key Results and Highlights 2011, was issued by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme for the Acceleration of the Abandonment of FGM/C. Set up in 2008, the initiative aims to end a practice with serious immediate and long-term health effects and that violates girls’ and women’s human rights.

Each year, around 3 million girls and women—or some 8,000 girls each day—face the risk of mutilation or cutting. An estimated 130 million to 140 million girls and women have undergone the practice, mostly in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East.

The new highlights show that, with support from UNFPA and UNICEF, efforts against FGM/C have yielded encouraging results during 2011. Throughout Africa, more than 18,000 community education sessions were held, almost 3,000 religious leaders publicly declared that the rite should end, and more than 3,000 media features have covered the subject.

Consequently, almost 2,000 communities declared their abandonment of the practice during the year. Celebrations to voice such declarations were attended by government officials, Muslim imams, Catholic and Protestant priests, traditional village and clan leaders and thousands others in countries such as Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gambia, Senegal, Kenya and Somalia. Kenya’s parliament passed a bill prohibiting FGM/C; 13 Sudanese states have launched initiatives to abandon the practice; and more than 3,600 families with girls at risk in Egypt have come out against the practice. In addition, a West African fatwa against cutting was issued by religious leaders from Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Egypt.

The UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme on FGM/C speeds change through a culturally sensitive, human rights-based approach that promotes collective abandonment of the practice. That includes engaging all community groups, such as traditional and religious leaders, women, men and young girls themselves, in discussing the harms of the practice, while highlighting that it is not a religious requirement. The programme also supports legislation and policies against the practice.


UNICEF report on the risks of early marriage and motherhood


Direct Link to 148-Page Full UNICEF Report:


Pages 22-24 - "Child marriage, often deemed by elders to protect girls from sexual predation, promiscuity and social ostracism, in fact makes them more likely to be ignorant about health and more vulnerable to school dropout. Many adolescent girls are required to marry early; and when they become pregnant, they face a much  higher risk of maternal mortality, as their bodies are not mature enough to cope with the experience.

The younger a girl is when she becomes pregnant, whether she is married or not, the greater the risks to her health. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death worldwide for adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19.

For girls, child marriage is also associated with an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Research suggests that adolescent pregnancy is related to factors beyond girls' control."


New Report Offers Breakthrough to Ending FGM

New Report Offers Breakthrough to Ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

The Dynamics of Social Change: Towards the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Five African Countries (FLORENCE, Italy 18 November 2010)

A new report provides evidence on how communities across Africa are ending female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), despite strong countervailing social pressures (

The Dynamics of Social Change: Towards the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Five African Countries - from UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre - provides solutions and examples of communities ending the practice. The report examines what conditions are necessary for a consensus to abandon FGM/C and identifies strategies for sustainable abandonment. See a short documentary at

The report is also a reminder that changing behavioural practices (social norms) - which may have endured for centuries - is a complex process that takes time. The Dynamics of Social Change finds that the most effective abandonment initiatives frame the discussion surrounding FGM/C in a non-threatening way; reinforce the positive aspects of local culture; and build community trust by implementing development projects that address local needs. This demonstrates that new ideas come with good intentions and with the goal of improving their lives. Successful abandonment programmes involve respected community members, including religious and local leaders, and engage social networks and institutions. They use legislative reform, national policies and the media to enable and support the process.

"A family's decision to practice or abandon FGM/C is influenced by powerful social rewards and sanctions," said Gordon Alexander, Director a.i. of the Innocenti Research Centre. "Understanding the diverse social dynamics that perpetuate FGM/C is changing the way in which abandonment is approached. There is no one answer, no one way, and no quick fix. But there is progress. These efforts need to be scaled up to bring change in the lives of girls, now."
The Innocenti Research Centre report (with data at the foot of this PR) examines a number of promising strategies that are supporting communities in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal and the Sudan to abandon FGM/C.

Millions of girls worldwide are cut or mutilated each year. The practice, a serious violation of their human rights, can cause severe, lifelong health problems including bleeding, problems urinating, childbirth complications and newborn deaths.

Religion, tradition and culture are also often cited by families as reasons for cutting their daughters. Many communities, for example, believe that FGM/C is mandated by religious doctrine, despite the fact that no major religion requires it. The report reveals that one of the key factors that motivate parents' decision to have their girls cut - 'to do what is best for their daughters' - may also spur a decision to stop the practice, once social norms evolve and social expectations change.

"The report is an important contribution to our collective understanding of how widespread and sustainable change can be made in communities," said Mr. Alexander. "It also has enormous implications for how we address both FGM/C and other harmful practices and forms of violence against girls and women, such as forced and child marriage that are influenced by similar social dynamics."

Despite the progress that has been made in intervention communities - particularly in Senegal - national FGM/C prevalence rates still remain high in Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan. There has, however, been a significant change in attitudes about FGM/C in all three countries, indicating that individuals are questioning the merits of these practices and would prefer, circumstances permitting, not to have their daughters, wives, sisters and cousins undergo FGM/C.

Estimates on how many girls and women worldwide have been cut vary from 70 million to 140 million. In Africa, an estimated three million girls and women are at risk for FGM/C each year. The practice is also found in some countries Asia and the Middle East, and to a lesser extent within some immigrant communities in Europe, and in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America.

See more and

Some figures: FGM/C prevalence and attitudes*

* Data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal.  Data for Sudan from the Sudan 1989-90 DHS and 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey

Female Circumcision Still Widespread In Egypt

A doctor in Egypt is being taken to court for carrying out an illegal operation to circumcise young girls.

It follows the death of a 13-year-old, from a village in the Nile Delta, in the north of the country.

An investigation has raised fears that the practice of female genital mutilation, which was banned two years ago, is still widespread in Egypt.

See the full report here:

British Girls Undergo Horror of Genital Mutilation Despite Tough Laws

FGM - UK - British Girls Undergo Horror of Genital Mutilation Despite Tough Laws

Female circumcision will be inflicted on up to 2,000 British schoolgirls during the summer holidays - leaving brutal physical and emotional scars. Yet there have been no prosecutions against the practice.

FGM Affects Girls and Women in the UK

The World Health Organisation estimates that 3 million girls undergo some form of the procedure every year. It is practised in 28 countries in Africa and some in the Middle East and Asia. FGM is also found in the UK amougst members of migrant communities. It is estimated that up to 24,000 girls in the UK, under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM.

UK communities that are most at risk of FGM include Kenyans, Somalis, Sudanese, Sierra Leoneans, Egyptians, Nigerians and Eritreans. Non African communities that practise FGM include Yemeni, Kurdish, Indonesian and Pakistani.

  • Female genital mutilation, also known as cutting, is practised in 28 African countries. The prevalence rate ranges from 98% of girls in Somalia to 5% in Zaire. It also takes place among ethnic groups in the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand.
  • Until the 1950s FGM was used in England and the US as a "treatment" for lesbianism, masturbation, hysteria, epilepsy and other "female deviances".
  • A survey in Kenya found a fourfold drop in FGM rates among girls who had secondary education.
  • Reasons for the practice include conforming to social norms, enhancing sexual pleasure for men and reducing it for women, cleanliness and chastity.
  • No European country accepts the threat of FGM as a reason for asylum.
  • In Sudan, 20-25% of female infertility has been linked to FGM complications.
  • In Chad, girls have begun to seek FGM without pressure from their immediate family, believing that to be "sewn up" proves they are virginal and clean. The fashion has led to uncircumcised girls being labelled "dirty".


Halima Mohamed Abdel Rahman shares her story from Sudan and calls out for reform

A Future Without Female Genital Mutilation

As a young girl, Sudanese Voices of Our Future correspondent Halima Mohamed Abdel Rahman was circumcised at the hands of the elder women of her community. Now an advocate for the practice's abolition, she shares her own story and calls out for reform.

Other women are usually the practitioners of FGM, with most men considering it a "woman's affair."

Photo © Peter Arnold

My Story

I remember being forced to lie down on three old mattresses: two stretched on an angareb (a wooden bed popular in Sudan); the other plied under my torso. My midwife Hajja sat on a low wooden stool. Our eyes met as she faced my naked body.

“Now you are a woman,” she said. “A real woman never cries. I will remove this dirt, and you will become clean, a real Muslim.”

There were several women around me during the ritual. Two took hold of my thighs, while two others firmly held my arms. Another sat behind me and put my head on her lap. With her right hand she covered my eyes. As she put her left arm on my chest, she must have felt my heart beating fast because she said, “Honor your father’s name. Don’t be afraid; this is not painful. You have seen your sister and your cousins. They did not cry.” I didn’t dare utter a sound as tears ran down my face.

“In the name of Allah Most Gracious, Most Merciful,” Hajja said. She raised her fat hand, ornamented with golden bracelets, and addressed the women around her. “Open her widely,” she murmured.

I felt the fingers of her left hand moving my nudity apart and then a sharp needle piercing my flesh up and down and in the middle. I cried at the top of my voice and tried to raise my torso to kick the two women who were firmly holding my thighs.

“Oh women, hold her firmly!” Hajja cried.

I was anesthetic resistant.

Suddenly, she started cutting. The pain was excruciating. I cried like a mad person. Her head was bent between my thighs, but I felt as if she was cutting in the middle of my skull. More women were called to hold me down. Some of them nicknamed me coward.

Hajja called one of the old ladies over and asked, “Does everything look okay?”

“No, no,” said the old woman, “Cut this piece. Yes, this one. And remove her clitoris. What is the use of it? And, remove the dirt. Do as I tell you.” It was Grandmother Amna, doing her best to establish herself as the expert in the anatomy of young girls.

Again Hajja bent between my thighs and cut me with the razor. Or perhaps it was a kitchen knife. I was sure of one thing only: She wasn’t wearing gloves or covering her head. She wore only her white short dress. She was fat and stout and mowed my flesh with no mercy.

And then came the stitches: nine in all, causing me pain and panic whenever I tried to move.

I was only 6 years old—too tiny to struggle.

Between Two Atrocities

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that in Africa about three million girls are at risk for this barbaric practice annually.

My country of Sudan ranks fifth among countries practicing female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide. According to a UNICEF report, 89% of Sudanese women are circumcised. That’s roughly 14 million women and girls.

In Sudan, there are three types of FGM practiced today: ‘Sunna’, removal of the hood and part of the clitoris; Clitoridectomy, removal of the clitoris and adjacent labia; and Infibulation, which consists of a complete Clitoridectomy as well as stitching of the labia, allowing only a small gap for urine and menstrual blood to pass through. In my point of view type one is the least practiced.

This past February the Sudanese government legalized the Sunna form of FGM. The Council of Ministers dropped the 13th article of the 2009 Children’s Act which banned FGM to take into account the Islamic fatwa that distinguishes “harmful” circumcision—Infibulation, Clitoridectomy, from less extensive procedures like Sunna.

Ironically, this decision came just one day before the world celebrated International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation.

With this decision, my dear homeland has taken decades of work against these practices back to square one...
History of Resistance

FGM was declared illegal in Sudan in 1941, but the practice has continued with little interruption.

Successive national surveys between 1979 and 1983 recorded that 96% of women have undergone FGM. In 1991, this percentage dropped to 89%. And now, in 2009, the UNICEF World Report on Children shows a drop of only 7.3%. This gradual shift in public attitudes toward FGM has been due in large part to efforts led by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like Babikir Badri Scientific Studies Association on Women Studies (BBSAWS) in coordination with many other autonomous organizations and individuals. It is worth noting that BBSAWS was the first local NGO to shoulder the struggle against FGM in Sudan.

Several factors contribute to the prevalence of circumcision, including the absence of a long-term strategy against the practice, no implementation of strict measures to defend children, the concentration of NGOs in urban centers, associating circumcision with Islam, dominance of silly notions that FGM is a kind of purification and beautification, and the existence of beneficiaries who are resistant to change.

But our government’s legalization of the practice is the major obstacle. Whenever FGM is legal, it destroys efforts undertaken by NGOs, turns ethnic groups into advocators, and codifies the presence of groups who are officially supported to derive their livelihood from the profession, not to mention an increase of propaganda used to promote the practice.

Stigma and Economics

In Sudan, it is the women who shoulder the biggest responsibility for excisions. They are the practitioners and the supporters, while the majority of Sudanese men consider it “women’s affairs.”

Mothers and grandmothers who were victims of circumcision almost always request infibulations or the “Pharaonic” type of excision. The midwives get around the laws by claiming that they only perform “Sunna,” when in reality they practice only type two and three.

Midwives, like Hajaa Zeinab, never fail to honor a client’s request. They work in accordance with the law of supply and demand, not the law of the land. By doing so, they pull women into a vicious cycle of circumcision, decircumcision (tasheem) and recircumcision (adlah). The latter is normally performed to tighten a woman after giving birth.

Moreover, midwives have their own means of propaganda and advertising to increase their business. Whenever such a midwife is among a large number of women, she tells stories about uncircumcised girls being always dirty even if they spend the whole day showering. Of course, circumcised girls are always described by the famous phrase, “waa halati,” meaning, “what a nice girl!”

The gloomy picture reflected by my story does not deny the light at the end of the tunnel.

Change is in process. It will not happen overnight, but with persistence, proper education, and consistency, it is within reach.

I believe that in order to stop FGM in Sudan (and worldwide), civil society organizations, NGOs, artists, writers, dramatists, cartoonist, musicians, activists, media practitioners, physicians, the whole family, etc, must continue to pressure governments to not support this practice.

Continuation of personal efforts is a must. I, for one, prevented my young nieces from having to endure excision and convinced two illiterate mothers to abandon the practice.

I believe that an effective cure for this disease will have to involve personal and collective trials discussions. Men and women who don't practice female circumcision need to come in the open, and not hide in shame.

I recently received an email from a man named Mohamed Ahmed. He wrote, “As a man I didn't find it difficult to say I am married to an uncircumcised woman, and my 22-year-old daughter is not circumcised. This helped me in convincing many relatives and friends throughout more than 27 years to not practice FGM." I received his message with hope and great appreciation.

For the sake of my daughter from whose eyes beam a promising tomorrow and who brings seeds of change, I will continue to work at home and through the media to put an end to FGM.


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