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Reward offered to stamp out FGM

July 14th, 2007

Dr Petra

In the UK this week the Metropolitan Police increased efforts to clamp down on FGM (female genital mutilation) by offering a £20,000 reward to anyone who can provide information about FGM that leads to a successful prosecution.

Within immigrant communities, particularly those of African origin, there is still a continued practice of FGM – even though it is viewed in the UK as child abuse and is illegal. Figures suggest around 66,000 women and girls in the UK have had their genitals removed. In some cases women and girls are sent abroad for the procedure – in other cases it appears that FGM is being carried out in the UK.

FGM is a sensitive topic and one that requires careful handling so that vulnerable communities do not feel stigmatised. A lot of the focus on FGM rightly concentrates on it being an issue of child abuse, and highlights how frequently FGM is carried out without anaesthetic. However two other key issues that also need to be stressed is how FGM is a means to end female sexual pleasure, and also can cause lifelong gynaecological problems for women during menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and post-natally.

We need to support all efforts to target FGM, but remember for many communities it is seen as a cultural issue. That should not, however, be our excuse not to act on FGM. Certain cultural practices that are dangerous and encourage gender inequality should never be condoned.

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