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I will always remember when I first started working in the domestic abuse sector 11 years ago and went on my first training on FGM and I was absolutely horrified that this happens to babies and young girls. Shortly after I met my first survivor of FGM, a Somalian lady in her 40s with two young girls, she explained to me how she was pinned down when she was 5 by an elder in the community - the excruciating pain she endured caused her to faint. She went on to say how, for years afterwards, she would experience pain, discomfort and frequent infections. When she came to England, she met her now husband and decided to have children. The complications she experienced during childbirth became too much for her to describe. 

What is FGM? 

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a horrifying practice, and it is also a human rights violation. It involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is commonly performed on girls before they hit puberty however it has no health benefits for girls and women. It has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and the legislation was strengthened in 2003. However, it still happens in the UK, with an estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales having undergone the procedure. For clarity, that’s 1 in every 250 women and girls.  

There are many reasons why some communities still force this awful and harmful procedure on young girls, but commonly it is because of social pressures. FGM is impacted by power structures, social norms, and fear of being rejected by future partners, family, and the community. It can also be a symptom of gender inequality and used as a method to control a female’s sexual behaviour. FGM is a form of domestic abuse as it is often performed and instigated by family members. Furthermore, it is the one form of domestic abuse that is mainly performed by other women. One thing that is important to note is there is no religious scripts that command the practice of FGM. 

The consequences of having survived FGM echoes throughout an entire lifetime. This is why we strive for an end to this harmful practice, and continue supporting as many survivors as possible.