FGM: an inherent cultural tradition that needs to be dealt with

27 July 2018

Excruciating pain. Psychological scarring. Child bearing issues. Future health risks. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a dangerous, irreversible procedure that is ubiquitous in societies around the world and is ever-present (under the surface) in the UK. Even though FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and since 2003 anyone taking a child out of the UK to undergo the process will face 14 years in jail,[1] it is still going on: 137,000 girls and women live with FGM and 144,000 are at risk of FGM in England and Wales.[2] Nevertheless, with not a single conviction yet to be made it is undeniable that the legislation attempting to deter the problem is ineffective.[3] Instead, the UK government must take cultural action to this dangerous belief. From education on the dangers of ‘cutting’ to raising awareness on the inherent problem, there are measures that can help eradicate this tradition; however, they need to be implemented sooner rather than later.

A woman shows the razor blade that she uses to cut girls’ genitals in Mombasa, Kenya, June 25, 2015. Ivan Lieman—Barcroft Media

With a ‘fivefold increase’ (according to the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation) of FGM in the UK how do those involved evade punishment? Despite, research into where FGM occurs, it is incredibly hard to locate because of its underground nature: for instance, girls can be cut before entering the country, the process is often behind closed doors and many girls are cut at a young age so for them it seems the norm. Additionally, the stigma surrounding one’s privacy leads many victims of FGM not to open up about their experience, again making it very difficult to track down the perpetrators. The police have blamed the inaction on ‘a lack of evidence’ due to many women and girl’s embarrassment of revealing their scars: with no hard evidence, many victims do not gain justice.[4] With harsh prison sentences being of no use, the government and police force alike must work together to put more resources and effort into finding ‘more evidence’ and, perhaps, a program to comfort victims and to work as one in order to bring down those dark culprits.

Nonetheless, there is support for solving this issue: for example, Aneeta Prem (founder of the Freedom Charity) has written a fictional account of FGM called ‘Cut Flowers’, which includes lesson plans that have been used in more than 200 schools to raise awareness of the illegal practice. In addition, there is an anonymous helpline for girls to speak out to, however, this is hardly used because these girls are scared to reach out, especially in fear of the police as their family could be arrested.[5] Therefore, the government must promote awareness on the atrocities and dangers associated with FGM, and so these fearful girls can understand just how awful such acts are and, hopefully, have a renewed interest in gaining the deserved justice.

Thousands of women and girls flee to the UK every year in the hope of sanctuary from the horrors of forced FGM, especially in Kenya where “Every girl is forced by our culture in FGM”.[6] The UK needs to press forward on this prevalent issue and speak out for those women and girls who cannot. With more awareness, support groups for victims, and a little more effort on the issue change is possible: however, to prevent more pain and injustice we must act now.




[2] City University London’s paper on the “Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales: National and local estimates”.





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