Sunday, 15 March 2015

The anti-FGM Campaign 2015

I have watched and listened with interest to the FGM campaign around the UK and the world. For me as a woman and a campaigner, it is wonderful that so many people are showing their concern. My concern though, is that we seem stuck at the same stage in our fight against this crime. It s important that those of us who care so passionately about this issue should understand the people we are trying to help. A friend made this very point recently, at a meeting at which we both spoke. If somebody of ,say, African or Middle Eastern origin, brought up in a European nation, would  be seen as an outsider when trying to gain the trust of these communities, imagine the difficulty faced by an indigenous European in the same situation.

We cannot take a one size fits all approach when there are so many different reasons why the practice continues;

·         Custom and tradition

·         Mistaken belief it is a religious requirement

·         Preservation of virginity/chastity

·         Social acceptance, especially for marriage

·         Hygiene and cleanliness

·         Increasing sexual pleasure for the male

·         Family honour

·         Enhancing fertility

·         A sense of belonging or the fear of social exclusion

·         Many women believe that FGM is necessary to ensure acceptance by their communities

It is often suggested that the practise exists in order to enhance male sexual pleasure,(although quite HOW, has never been explained by any man I know). Obviously thousands of years of male domination all over the world, make this seem to be an entirely logical premise. I don’t doubt that this is the case in some cultures but not all. In some cultures FMG is about female  empowerment,(almost like a rite of passage), and men have nothing to do with what’s going on.

In my opinion, all of those involved whether the UN or anti FGM charities, need to work closely with the communities they are trying to help, even empower women from these communities and give them the leading role. This is likely to give people time to think about the alternatives to initiation ceremonies that are part of some of these communities which might not involve cutting.

We must all understand that the surest way to alienate people is to patronise them. Work with the communities involved and let them take the lead, that’s the only way.

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