Now that the schools will be open soon in the UK, it is a shame to imagine what some of the girls from FGM practising communities have gone through in the name of culture or custom. The months of July to September in some FGM practising communities are considered "cutting season" where girls are mutilated. Most families in the diaspora take their children back to the countries of origin to have this procedure done. Unfortunately this is done in the name of culture. People seem to forget that culture evolves and even developed countries have long since left some dangerous practices like (workhouses-which did not take into consideration the mental and physical state of all involved and prosecuting gay people in the UK, etc). Why then do some FGM practising communities use culture to harm their children? A culture should be questioned at all costs if it is harmful.
Meaning of custom: custom, habit, practice mean an established way of doing things. Custom, applied to a community or to an individual, implies a more or less permanent way of acting reinforced by tradition and social attitudes / A practice followed by people of a particular group or region.
Having established what a custom is, it is clear from the above definitions that customs are not rigid. They can change and be stopped at any stage of their existence. One would think a custom worth mentioning should be the one that people are proud of. However with FGM, the way it’s so secretive, I can’t help but think that even the FGM enthusiasts knows very well that this is a harmful, cruel and unnecessary practice. Who wouldn’t if the truth be said and it is such a shame that the practice still exist in the 21st Century. There is no doubt that all of those people involved with FGM have seen death, misery and prolonged physical and mental illness as a result of FGM. How then can people not see that? But not for long of course!
‘’The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art, from one generation to the next.’’
The problem I have with the above definition is it claims that culture does not change and this is what the FGM enthusiasts use as an excuse for chopping girls and women’s parts. But honestly culture does change and most African cultures have long since changed. Why then justify a practice that is so harmful both physically and mentally in the name of culture? The problem I have with FGM enthusiasts is that they claim FGM is part of African Culture. It is not and let us not define ourselves by cherry picking what we like just to make up for evil practices. I think the word culture has always been misused by people who try to make excuses for bogus traditions. The problem then is even those from parts of the world where FGM is not practised who should help end this horrific practice once they hear the word culture, they move aside and become spectators. This to me explains why FGM has survived this long.
We now live in a global village where not one culture has survived untouched. Even those tribes living hidden in the Amazon have had their ways of doing things changed by events happening around the world. So claiming that FGM is a culture is wrong. Why keep only that part of culture? Why not keep it all including hunting and gathering and all the rest of it?
To those FGM practising communities and enthusiasts, it is time to let go. FGM will not survive for much longer.
What can schools do?
It is vital for schools to create a culture where children feel able to come forward if they or a friend is at risk or has been a victim of FGM. If a child approaches a member of staff, they must be able to act on this information. This means schools need a clear protocol in place for handling FGM concerns.
If a child has already undergone the procedure it should be reported so that the child is provided with appropriate care and support. Signs that could indicate a girl has had FGM include:
• Being absent for a long time or during her period.
• Going to the toilet more often than usual or for a long time.
• Not able to cross her legs when sitting on the floor, trying to get out of PE.
• Urinary tract infections, being in pain, clutching her body.
• Sudden changes in behaviour (quiet/subdued/misbehaving).
• Talk about something somebody did to them that they are not allowed to talk about.
What to do if you are concerned about someone who is at risk of FGM
• Talk to them about your concerns in simple straightforward speech; if you ridicule you lose the chance of making a difference
· Be sensitive
· Consult a child protection advisor and make a referral to children’s’ social care
What to do if you have had the FGM done?
As I write this article, for some girls the procedure might have already been done while they were on holiday. Many families from the FGM practising communities take girls to their country of origin to have the procedure carried out. When they return, the girls are told not to talk about FGM and told of how they might be taken away from their family if people were to know about FGM.
My advice is seeking help from specialist health services. There are specialist clinics around the UK and in some of these one can have a reversal procedure.
DO NOT KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF. TALK TO SOMEONE, A TEACHER OR A SCHOOL NURSE FGM IS CHILD ABUSE AND A CRIME!
REMEMBER NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO HURT YOU PHYSICALLY OR EMOTIONALLY.
By Abigal Muchecheti- Author of “A lost Youth” a book on FGM