Sunday, 22 September 2013

Female Genital Mutilation and Legislation

Having been campaigning for an end to the horrific practice of FGM, I would want to share some of my thoughts regarding prosecutions of perpetrators of this crime. There is need for the law to be seriously involved.


However I also think prosecutions alone (like for murderers, paedophiles etc) will work well with more awareness and working together by different sections of the communities. Female Genital mutilation is child abuse and should be talked about freely without fear of being accused of racism or prejudice and treated the same way as all other forms of child abuse.


Prosecutions and most importantly awareness, on the dangers of FGM and training those who work with children could be beneficial to all involved. Without training of those working with children, it will be difficult to bring anyone to justice. A survey I did in Oxfordshire among teachers for example revealed that 1 in 10 people knew what FGM is and had no idea of the numbers of girls at risk in the UK. Talking about child abuse, even after the case of Baby P, there have been more cases of child abuse even with prosecutions. What are we doing wrong,?

What is the best approach to ending female genital mutilation?


A much more rigorous approach is needed, a review of what activists are doing now and see its effectiveness.


A systematic review by Berg and Denison (2012) found that there was little

evidence of the effectiveness of interventions to prevent FGM. The review

highlights that the factors related to the continuation or discontinuation of

the practice varied across contexts; however, the main factors supporting the

practice were tradition, religion and concern with reducing women’s sexual



Conversely, health complications and lack of sexual satisfaction did not favour support of the practice.


However, a wealth of evaluations of anti-FGM programmes from many countries exists, which can provide guidelines for good practice. These strategies are summarized below.

This is no time to be lone rangers –re FGM. For it to work there is need for a holistic approach which does not isolate those from FGM practising communities.

Understand the social dynamics of decision-making related to FGM

Decision-making and practices in many communities involve more than just

individuals and families– they are embedded in community or group dynamics. Interventions that target individuals, families or excisers alone are

therefore unlikely to be effective   eg. A research in Gambia and Senegal found that decisions about FGM were made by more than one member of the family, including mothers, fathers, grandparents and aunts.


Fathers were less supportive of FGM than mothers, and were often crucial to

decisions not to subject their daughters to the procedure.


In light of these findings and other research on decision-making in relation to

FGM, it is  recommended  that preventive interventions include elements of community dialogue; understanding of the importance of local rewards and punishments and a method for coordinating change among social groups that includes men and women from multiple generations within the community and related communities


Work with – not against – cultural and community practices and beliefs

FGM has rarely been abandoned when programmes against the practice have been perceived by the community as attacking and criticizing local culture and values, and/or as driven by outsiders. On the contrary, defensive reactions, including mass-FGM initiatives and proclamations in support of the practice, can result.


Evaluations suggests that reinforcing positive cultural values can be more effective , as can supporting community dialogue aimed at finding ways to signify a girl’s coming of age that do not involve cutting.


Target local, national and international levels of influence


Grass-roots-level interventions have been shown to benefit from complementary national responses. In addition, ethnicity – a major predictor of the type of FGM practised – can span national borders; thus interventions targeting a particular ethnic group should consider cross-border coordination.


Legal sanctions against FGM are the most common type of intervention at the

national and international levels but there is strong evidence that laws alone are not enough. Nevertheless, legislation creates an enabling environment for interventions at the local level, as illustrated in Ghana and Senegal.


Legislation and codes of conduct have also been shown to be important in relation to communities that practise FGM outside their countries of origin.

A study in the European Union found that effective implementation of laws

related to FGM is associated with better knowledge, including how to deal with an at-risk girl, and attitudes among health-care providers who are in contact with these populations


Together FGM can be a thing of the past but all parties in FGM communities have to be involved from the onset. FGM activists out there be careful as you move into people’s communities and keep up the good work.

Abigal Muchecheti is an author of a book, “A lost Youth  a book on Female Genital Mutilation.


1 comment:

  1. I of course absolutely agree with you Abigal, that it's the 'right' combination of approaches which will have the most effect.

    An important recent UNICEF study makes the point that the mutilation needs to be addressed directly, but that training and co-ordination of effort, adapted to context, is also critical.

    This is indeed a complex subject, but we need to get it tackled as soon as we possibly can.