Last weekend The Sunday Times headlines screamed about the increasing number of sick immigrant women seeking medical help. “Up to 100,000 women in Britain have undergone brutal sexual mutilations,” the respected paper said following a secret undercover investigation that exposed African doctors offering illegal operations costing £750 per session.
Around ten years ago a Tanzanian High Commission official in London told me the amount of registered Tanzanian nationals living in the UK was approximately 100,000.
If we statistically agree that immigrants make less than 30 percent of the overall population (roughly 60 million Britons) then 100,000 women is quite a large amount. According to BBC, main communities practising female genital mutilation in the UK are from Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.
In 2001 World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated at least 138 million world-wide who have been mutilated. Traditionally the practice used to be mostly an African and Middle East affair but because of increased immigration the habit is spreading. No wonder authorities are concerned.
Speaking to Sky News, head of ethics at the British Medical Association, Professor Vivienne Nathanson said pressure to circumcise females as young as ten years old is coming from home countries through grandmothers, aunties and mothers “who massacre these girls.”
The Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2003 states it is an offence to cut a girl’s genitals (unless medically necessary) and therefore punishable to up to 14 years in jail. What the media in the UK is saying is despite such stern laws, no one has been convicted.
“If a white girl is abused the police come and break down the door. If a black girl is mutilated nobody takes care of her,” Somali model, Waris Dirie told Sunday Times. Waris (who was herself mutilated as a child) has been campaigning to end female genital mutilation since 1997 as United Nations ambassador.
And what exactly female genital mutilation ?
Defenders of FGM argue it has lasted thousands of years before even Islam and Christianity were established. So unknown is this tradition that part of the campaign by medical people is to raise awareness of its evil.
The major aim of FGM is to reduce sensitivity and make women less sexually excited so that they remain faithful to their spouses.
FGM is divided into four types starting with removal of the clitoris or clitoris and labia- the lips of the female organs. This type of operation accounts for majority of all cases. The third type requires incision of all genitalia and stitching it to leave a tiny opening for urinating and menstrual blood while the fourth one cuts everything and introduces corrosive substances into the vagina. Women campaigners interpret this as male control – although some of the staunchest supporters of the habit are women themselves. A Sierra Leone lady defended the tradition as making a woman “pure and more hygienic.”
Problem is this so called “ hygienic” culture is creating misery and suffering to women- numbers of sick women reporting to be treated in UK clinics is rising. While 109 females reported in 2003, figures had tripled to 317, four years later. Among problems these women experience include taking up to 20 minutes to urinate and cramps caused by prolonged menstruation (up to 28 days) because of blockage.
A FMG clinic in Birmingham (Heartlands) caters independently for women who have suffered this ordeal by performing surgery and repair.
Discussions in forums are hot. Digital Spy Forum last Sunday:
“It does make it impossible for them to ever enjoy sex. Genital mutilation in girls is akin to foot binding of girls in ancient China causing unimaginable pain for a very long period of time, frequent deaths and a lifelong disability.”
Emily 222 wondered:
“Supposedly it is so the girls are pure when they marry!! So, God made them impure at birth? God made a mistake in giving the female of the species the same equipment as the male for enjoyment of sex? Just as sickening is that the children’s mothers condone it.”
I once heard the story of a Sudanese woman who fled to Scandinavia. Her husband who travelled regularly to the Middle East would order her genitals to be sealed. On returning the genitals would be re-opened. The same procedure would be repeated when she gave birth. During pregnancy she would be surgically unzipped then after her baby was born, stitched again. This pattern would follow each birth and her husband’s business trips.
Currently almost two thirds of Tanzanian regions practice FGM. When I highlighted the custom a few years ago some readers argued that criticising the ancient, cruel habit is “Europeanization of our cultures.”
Any thing that applauds torture by calling it “our culture” is similar to the superstitious way Albinos are being murdered for “luck or wealth.” This is not only sinful and morally wrong but contributes to weakening the spirit of our working women-massive contributors to our family and national economies.
Also published in Citizen Tanzania