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FAQ on FGM


FAQ on FGM

  1. What if I am worried that someone is at risk of FGM?
  2. Type 1 doesn’t seem that bad; what if FGM Type 3 is banned but Type 1 allowed?
  3. Is FGM an Islamic or religious requirement?
  4. Men get circumcised. What’s the difference between male circumcision and FGM?
  5. If a girl gives consent, would FGM be okay?
  6. Why is FGM different from other cosmetic surgeries including designer vaginas?
  7. If a woman has had FGM, is she still able to be sexually active or achieve sexual pleasure?
  8. Would it be better if FGM was done by professionals in hospitals using sterilised equipment?
  9. Since FGM is a cultural practice can it still be banned?
  10. The UK has banned FGM. Has anyone been prosecuted (sent to jail) for practicing FGM in the UK?
  1. What if I am worried that someone is at risk of FGM?
    If you are worried that you, your friend, or your sister is at risk of FGM in the UK or of being taken abroad for FGM, it is very important that you do something to stop FGM from taking place. Remember, FGM is against the law and is harmful to girls. Sometimes the warning signs may only be rumours, but it may be worth telling someone to be on the safe side. You will only be seen to be helping in the long run. Take immediate action: You can get help and advice. Do not stay silent.If you feel that a girl may be at risk of FGM, please visit the support page for your country for advice on what action to take.

     

  2. Type 1 doesn’t seem that bad; what if FGM Type 3 is banned but Type 1 allowed?
    Although many people think that a ‘nick’ of the clitoris for symbolic reasons is not harmful the truth is that ALL forms of FGM can have short and long-term complications. The extent of the effects of FGM on a girl’s health and well-being depends on the type of procedure. The most severe form, Type 3, poses a greater risk to health and wellbeing of girls and women. Additionally all forms of FGM violate human rights and girls should not be subjected to a practice which is not in the best interest of the child and is harmful.
  3. Is FGM an Islamic or religious requirement?
    Islamic requirements are taken from both the Quran (the Islamic holy book) and the Hadith (a collection of texts that relate the deeds and words of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him – PBUH). Together they provide Muslims with a guide (known as Sunna – which means ‘according to the tradition or custom of the Prophet’) on how to live their lives.There are several Hadiths which have been interpreted to support FGM. One Hadith (known as the Hadith of circumcision) is that of a debate between the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and Umm Attia. It says the following: “Mohammed (PBUH) met a woman called Umm Attia. This woman was known to be a circumciser of female slaves. Mohammed said to her: “Trim, but do not cut into it, for this is brighter for the face and more favourable with the husband.”” Those that argue in favour for FGM believe that this Hadith provides evidence that the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) did not forbid FGM, instead giving instructions for how it should be performed. The same Hadiths are also used by people who want to end FGM as a way to prove that although FGM was practiced at the time of the Prophet, it should be kept to a minimum.Despite the Hadiths that refer to circumcision there is no explicit reference in the Quran that girls must be circumcised. There is much debate on the issue and many Muslim scholars will provide evidence both for and against FGM.Islam does not give any convincing arguments for making FGM a religious obligation; in fact, the practice goes against many aspects of the religion.
    Although the Quran mentions many duties regarding women; such as pregnancy, breast-feeding, divorce, menstruation, etc, it says nothing about FGM.
    According to Islam, you may not wound a human being or cut off a part of his/her body, unless there are important reasons for doing so.
    The female genitals were created by Allah, not by humans. No one has the right to change God’s creation.
    Islam respects women and also recognises female sexuality giving women the right to have sexual pleasure in marriage.
  4. Men get circumcised. What’s the difference between male circumcision and FGM?
    There is now a growing movement against male circumcision. Some important differences are:
    Male circumcision causes health problems less frequently, while FGM has serious and more harmful health effects.
    Male circumcision is an important part of both Islam and Judaism and is mentioned in both the Islamic and Jewish holy books. Muslim scholars have yet to come to an agreed decision on the necessity of FGM.In male circumcision the foreskin is removed without harming the penis itself. If male circumcision was carried out in the same way as FGM then most of the penis would be cut off.The most important difference between male circumcision and FGM is the reasons behind the practices. Unlike FGM, male circumcision is not performed to preserve virginity or to decrease male sexual desire or drive. Male circumcision is not linked to the control of men’s sexual behaviour while FGM is practiced to control women’s sexual behaviour: to make sure that they remain virgins before marriage and faithful during marriage.
  5. If a girl gives consent, would FGM be okay?
    No. FGM has no medical benefits and is closely linked to traditional and cultural norms. As cultural and societal pressures to practice FGM are so strong, it is difficult to judge whether a woman is truly giving consent. There is almost always the question of whether she is undergoing FGM because she wants to, or because she feels like she has to. This leads to the question: is it possible to separate the two? Similarly, because FGM is a taboo subject that is not openly discussed; it is difficult to ensure that a girl or a woman knows all the facts and has all the information about FGM before giving her permission to undergo the procedure. If FGM is allowed when consent is given, it also results in some problematic questions like:How old does a woman or a girl need to be in order to make the decision to undergo FGM?
    Can we be sure that she is freely giving her permission and isn’t being pressured by others or her community?
    How can we ensure that she isn’t being influenced by financial or societal factors?In some countries like the United States of America the law forbids FGM for those under the age of 18 years old. In the UK it is illegal at any age.
  6. Why is FGM different from other cosmetic surgeries including designer vaginas?
    Some people argue that cosmetic surgery such as breast enlargements/reductions, facelifts or designer vaginas’ (an operation to change the way the vagina looks) are equally harmful cultural practices similar to FGM, as they both affect health, both physically and psychologically.However, the most important difference is that in cosmetic surgery women give their consent for the operations; usually without a deeply embedded pressure from their community. In terms of FGM the decision is made for the child or woman, who is usually neither informed nor old enough to decide for herself. Also the extreme societal pressure makes it difficult to determine if a girl is freely deciding to undergo the procedure without pressure from others. Therefore, girls who undergo FGM may not be giving consent to the practice.
  7. If a woman has had FGM, is she still able to be sexually active or achieve sexual pleasure?
    For some women who are sewn up or ‘closed’ (infibulation – FGM Type 3), it can be difficult or impossible to have penetrative sex because the opening may be very small (often the size of a matchstick head). In some cases, custom requires that the woman is opened up, either by her husband or a female member of the family for her wedding night, after she has been inspected and they are happy that she is still a virgin. This can cause more physical and emotional trauma for a woman, particularly those who have undergone Type 3 FGM and may require support from a trained health professional. It is recommended for women who have undergone FGM to seek medical advice or counselling to make a decision about being opened up.
  8. Would it be better if FGM was done by professionals in hospitals using sterilised equipment?
    No. FGM is harmful regardless of how it is performed. Although having FGM done in the hospital would reduce the risk of infections and help to dull the pain, physical and psychological
    complications could still happen. This is because the effects of FGM do not only occur during the procedure but continue throughout a woman’s life. If professionals perform FGM, it might also make the practice seem more acceptable since medical personnel are respected.According to the World Medical Association, health professionals swear an oath not to do any harm to their patients, therefore it is considered unethical for health professionals to perform FGM on girls or women.
  9. Since FGM is a cultural practice can it still be banned?
    Laws that ban FGM are important as they protect children and women. This provides security for girls and women who stand up against FGM. Making FGM illegal recognizes it as a human rights violation. Additionally laws provide a good environment for working to end FGM as it shows that governments are committed to ending the practice.Ending FGM is not as simple as making it illegal, but it is an important step to addressing an unacceptable cultural practice. However there is still much work to be done, through involving affected communities to increase awareness of FGM.
  10. The UK has banned FGM. Has anyone been prosecuted (sent to jail) for practicing FGM in the UK?
    Despite the FGM Act (2003), the law banning FGM in the UK, there have been no successful prosecutions. Two men were charged with FGM in March 2014 and the court case has started in January 2015.Despite the lack of prosecution this does not mean that FGM is still not occurring both in the UK and to British girls abroad. Active steps are being taken by all professionals concerned with the protection of children in the UK to ensure that those practicing FGM in the UK are prosecuted.It is also important to note that prosecution is not the only way to ensure that there is an end to FGM.Under the law in France there have been more than 100 prosecutions of families. This is because in France, there are routine physical examinations of girls. Although this has led to prosecutions it is a controversial way to end FGM. This is because it opens up ethical questions around protecting and maintaining the dignity of girls. It also does not engage communities on why FGM is harmful and does not allow them the opportunity to actively make the decision to end FGM in their communities.At the moment, in the UK, only girls who are suspected of being at risk of FGM are physically examined.