Female Genital Mutilation


Written by Siobhan Morrin
29 Monday 29th November 2010
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a phenomenon that Don’t Panic has reported on previously. The issue has come to the fore again, with the screening of The Day I Will Never Forget, a film centring on FGM in Kenya.
Statistics from 2003 show that around 32% of women in Kenya had reported being circumcised, though this rose to above 90% in certain rural areas. These figures have shown a decline, possibly as a result of the Children’s Act passed in 2001 that made FGM illegal. However, as these are only reported occasions, there is a fear that many instances now take place in greater secrecy.
The process of FGM varies between communities, depending on tradition. There are three types, ranging from the least invasive, the removal of the clitoris, to the most, involving removal of entire inner labia and narrowing of the vaginal passage. This third type is the most damaging, requiring a girl’s legs to be bound for 40 days to heal over. All three types carry great risks, however, including risk of infection, severe blood loss and death.
The film, directed by Kim Longinotto, follows a nurse who is trying to convince communities of the dangers of FGM, as well as a group of girls who are seeking a court injunction that will prevent them from becoming victims of the procedure. We are shown the obstacles they come up against, in particular the strength of tradition that dictates circumcision.
In most communities it is culture and tradition that mean a girl cannot become a woman and marry if she has not been circumcised. She is seen as unclean and will be ostracised by her tribe if she does not undergo the procedure. Once she has, however, she will be unable to continue her education, instead becoming a wife and bearing children- now very difficult and painful, sometimes requiring being re-cut open.
As well as the often-discussed place of tradition in FGM, the film also studies the important role of the circumcisers. These are women of the tribe, in more recent years often trained medical professionals. They represent another aspect to the issue of FGM. Tradition is clearly significant to them, but carrying out the procedure is also their job and specific role in the tribe.
The Day I Will Never Forget, although condemning the dangerous and unfair practice of FGM, demonstrates the complexity of the issue amongst tribe members. Clearly, there are many opinions that must be changed before the procedure can be fully eradicated.
The Day I Will Never Forget is showing at the Human Rights Action Centre in December. For more information see: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/events


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