Mojatu Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Myth Busting Booklet Issue 1

Page 1



Female Genital Mutilation


• FGM is any procedure that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. • FGM has been illegal in England and Wales since 1985. • FGM is a form of child abuse and violence against women and girls. • • FGM is Non-Islamic, against the teachings of Islam and brings Islam into disrepute. • FGM is putting the health of our daughters, sisters, mothers and wives at great risk. • • Over 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM. • 103,000 women aged15 to 49 are living with consequences of FGM in England & Wales. • In the UK, an estimated 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM each year. Taking Th • 1,230 cases have been reported in the Midlands from April 2020 to March 2021

Taking The City To the Fa Taking The City To the Farm


Are you concerned a girl or woman is at risk or need support? • • Join the Community FGM Steering Group: Contact us • For emotional & peer support for survivors in Nottingham, join the FGM Survivor’s club: Contact us Free • Refer survivors needing medical attention to FGM medical specialist in Nottingham: Contact us Sessions: Free Refugee • Drop in sessions at Mojatu Office Unit 7, Howitt Bldg, Lenton Blvd, Lenton, Nott`s NG7 2BY Sessions: Free FGM helpline Refugees & Asylum Seeker • Call 0808 028 350 for a 24/7 anonymous or email: Tuesdays Welcome Sessions: • Call Nottingham City Council Children and Families Direct: 0115 876Seekers 4800 Saturdays Tuesdays • Ring the police on 999 if FGM has just happened or about to happen Saturdays Tuesdays ADOP Activities include: Saturdays ADOPT A TREE include:Fruit Harvesting Actions Activities Fruit Harvesting Tree Management Activities To help end FGM and support survivors, join oneinclude: of our campaigns or projects Tree ManagementWeeding for Pumpkin Fruit Harvesting • FGM Survivors Club • Volunteer with us Feeding the animals Weeding for Pumpkins & Maize Form Tree Management • FGM Steering Group • ‘Adopt a tree’ project https://go Feeding the animals Pumpkins & Maize • FGM Global Faith Ambassador Weeding• for Donate to support our work Form online @ • FGM Global Young Ambassador Feeding •the Fundraise our work oodland 9sz animals to support

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• Women Skillshare Group

T: 0115 784 6666 | M: 0751 366 1176 | E: ang Mojatu Foundation | 167 Alfreton Road, NG7 3JR T: 0115 784 6666 | M: 0751 366 1176 | E: @ mojatuf @ Registered Charity: 1167557 Tel: 07759 927671

@ mojatuf


What is the Purpose? FGM is not an easy topic to navigate. In order to advocate and effectively safeguard the communities affected by the practice, it is necessary to address certain myths that have been perpetuated, and which in turn have prevented the proactive dialogue needed to end FGM in a generation.

What is FGM? Female Genital Mutilation, often referred to as FGM, involves harming or removing all or part of the external female genitalia. Type 1: Clitoridectomy - Involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris Type 2: Excision - Involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia Type 3: Infibulation - Involves the narrowing or stitching of the vaginal opening (and may include the partial or total removal of the clitoris, and/or changes to the labia Type 4: Any other harmful procedures that are not included in the first three categories such as pricking, stretching, cauterizing etc.


“FGM is a Global Issue”

Myth 1: “It is an African Problem”

FGM is often thought of as only happening in Africa. Though practised in 29 countries in Africa, it is not an exclusively African issue. It is practised in various parts of the Middle East and parts of South-East Asia. In Europe, America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, FGM does not only affect the African diaspora communities. The truth is, to be effective advocates of change, we must adopt the view that “It Happen’s Here.” Seeing FGM as an African issue neglects the fact that not all African countries practice FGM. It is also practised by many other communities outside of Africa, including some white Christian communities in the United States. It is an issue of gender based violence. We must move away from the notion that FGM is a practice that happens at a distance and consider it as a problem for everyone. It is also imperative to understand that in reporting FGM statistics, the facts and figures are dependant on countries’ willingness to allow the reporting of sensitive information, something which is often hampered by governments. Organisations in Malaysia and Singapore have emphasised the high prevalence of the practice though unofficially reported.

“You Cannot Consent To Abuse”

Myth 2: If the girl agrees, it is ok!

No it’s not Ok! FGM represents an extreme form of gender based violence. FGM can occur at any age, but most times occurs before adolescence. Reasons include: preserving virginity, ensuring marriageability and controlling female sexuality. It is sometimes argued that a girl or young woman has consented to the procedure and that therefore we should not challenge the tradition. However, even if the girl agrees to the procedure it is still illegal under UK law, to perform or assist somebody to perform, FGM. The practice is considered a form of abuse and is a safeguarding concern. It cannot be said that when agreeing to the procedure, the girl or even adult woman, is fully able to understand how the procedure will impact on her physical and emotional health. Some women who have been through FGM have stated that they felt like they were “swept up by the gifts, parties and wanting to feel a part of the community”. One FGM survivor said that she felt pressured into consenting as her peers had undergone FGM and she had witnessed the parties thrown in their honour. As soon as the cutting began, she begged them to stop.


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“Challenge the Misconception”

Myth 3: Women who have undergone FGM do not enjoy sexual pleasure.

One of the primary reasons for FGM is the suppression of female sexuality. Some of the physical and psychological consequences of FGM include sexual trauma. These include but are not limited to dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse) as well as the pain that not only comes physically from deinfibulation,(a woman’s vagina is unsewn), but also mentally. But whilst there may be limits on sexual pleasure, it is not impossible. It is essential to challenge this misconception and challenge the flawed supposition that FGM ensures purity by preventing enjoyable sex. While the clitoris is the only organ in the human body designed specifically for female pleasure, its removal, whether total or partial, does not remove sexual desire. Women are individuals and will experience desire and sexual gratification in different ways. Whilst some women have shared dreading sexual intercourse with their spouses, others expressed a longing for sex and intimacy. Work is needed to develop a better understanding amongst men and women from practising communities so that we end the stigma associated with not observing the tradition, and so that those who have undergone FGM are able to enjoy happy and fulfilling sexual relationships and intimacy.

Myth 4: FGM is a religious requirement It was long believed that there was a correlation between religion and FGM; however, this has since been disproven, with no religious text explicitly stating support for it. FGM predates all modern religions and has been traced back to pharaonic times. Religion has often been used to drive misbelief. It is essential to understand that no religion endorses FGM, and many religious leaders have denounced the practice, highlighting its contradictory nature. More recently faith leaders of all religious backgrounds have begun to speak out against the practice and dispel the notion that it is a religious requirement. Faith ambassadors have helped spread this message by sharing information on the harm of the practice and supporting communities to spot the signs of girls at risk while remaining nonjudgemental. In some communities, people may quote certain religious texts out of context as evidence of FGM being a religious duty, but faith leaders are beginning to challenge these misconceptions by championing campaigns to end the practice.


Let’s Not Compare”

Myth 5: Male circumcision is the same as FGM

While some people claim male circumcision is just the same as FGM, this is not the case. Male circumcision involves removing the foreskin of the penis without damage to the penis. Attempts are often made to link FGM to male circumcision through religious and cultural ties. Although it may be argued that male circumcision is a ‘largely unconsented genital surgery’, it is essential to understand that it is not comparable to FGM, not only when considering the fact, as mentioned earlier, that there is no cultural and religious justification for FGM but, especially when one considers the severity of the health complications, physical and psychological. Furthermore, when carried out correctly, there can be health benefits associated with male circumcisions, such as easier hygiene, and decreased risk of urinary tract infections. On the other hand, FGM carries no such benefits, even when carried out in a medical environment. FGM’s longer term complications extend to difficulty during labour, sometimes resulting in defibulation, and a range of gynaecological health problems. It has also been shown that women who have been through FGM avoid gynaecological screenings putting them at greater risk of other health issues as a result.

“Culture is what we celebrate.”

Myth 6: FGM is part of ‘other people’s’ cultural tradition, so it cannot be condemned.

FGM is a form of gender-based violence and constitutes child abuse. It is a violation of bodily integrity and should not be justified by arguments of culture. Culture is what we celebrate. When advocating to halt the practice of FGM, it is important to be culturally competent so that one can distinguish between the beauty of the blessings, putting on the traditional clothes and the dancing, and doing away with the harmful practice that brings pain. Culture and tradition are not the same things. The tradition of Chinese foot-binding was another harmful practice which has now been eradicated and yet Chinese culture still flourishes and is as vibrant as it has ever been. Losing this harmful tradition will not destroy culture but maintaining it will undoubtedly harm those who undergo it.


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“Medicalisation does not change the physical and psychological consequences”

Myth 7: If a healthcare professional performs FGM, it is OK.

The performance of FGM in a medical setting does not make it any less detrimental to the health of a woman/girl. Although some risk factors may be slightly reduced due to medical staff having some anatomical knowledge and the use of a more sterile environment and equipment, there is still no medical benefit to FGM. Medicalisation of cutting instruments and anaesthesia does not alter the many short and long term consequences resulting from the procedure. Many girls have died as a result of undergoing FGM, even in a clinical environment. Some women and girls may be misled into believing that if performed by a medical practitioner, they will be safe from any possible risks and consequences, when the truth is that there can be no such guarante e and there are NO health benefits whatsoever.

“FGM is everyone’s issue”

Myth 8: FGM is a women’s issues

FGM is rooted in patriarchal tradition. Some of the reasons associated with FGM include ensuring marriageability, promoting purity, the preservation of a female’s virginity and a rite of passage to prepare for womanhood. Though in the majority of communities the practice is carried out by maternal figures, the majority of men perpetuate the practice by benefiting from it and, in some instances, by refusing to marry uncut women; by sending or collecting money to get their daughters cut; and ultimately, by turning a blind eye to the practice and seeing it as women’s issues. Through campaigns across the global community, some men are beginning to understand that this practice is abuse and thankfully are challenging the traditions. However, more men need to stand up and use their power to end this practice. No country has achieved gender equality. Due to the patriarchal society that we all still live in, men have a considerable influence on the part that they can play in ending the unnecessary harm to women and girls. We need to educate men and boys that this practice is harmful and that change will happen more quickly if they make this an issue which everyone takes responsibility for.


“Gender based violence affects all women”

Myth 9: FGM is not a British problem

Historically, across Europe, FGM was practised on women who identified as lesbian and was used to cure hysteria, and other “ailments” deemed to be unsatisfactory to European society. The removal of the clitoris was aimed at protecting the ‘quiet and submissive’ ideal of a woman, and although it may not have been a European tradition originally, colonisation may well have helped to spread these ideas about how to “manage females” across the globe. Even those societies which were traditionally matriarchal were challenged to fit a European ideal of how women should behave and how men should treat them. Some of these expectations persist and women around the world are still subject to a range of harms rooted in gender inequalities. Now, with migration and a global economy, there is no issue that belongs in only one country or continent. 60,000 girls are at risk of FGM in the UK alone. As a form of gender-based violence, emotional abuse and coercive control, it must be challenged by everyone.

“Don’t be a Saviour”

Myth 10: Women who have undergone FGM are victims

In the media certain words and behaviour are used to describe women and communities who have been affected by FGM, oftentimes referring to and portraying them solely as victims. Being a victim should not form the basis of an individual’s identity. Having undergone FGM, inevitably this experience will in some way shape her identity and sense of self, but it does her an injustice if it is all she is defined by. The portrayal of women as FGM victims is damaging to the effort to end the practice and does no more than further subjugate women. Women who have been through FGM do not need to feel as though they need saving, nor should they feel embarrassed, ashamed nor stigmatised. Women who have undergone FGM need empathy and sensitivity towards their needs, not pity or even our indignation. It is important that they feel heard and respected as individuals with different experiences, able to engage and feel included in the conversation and any actions planned to tackle the issue. Myths not based on truth are dangerous and harmful to the fight to end FGM. The more we understand and educate ourselves of the reasons behind FGM, the more we are able to effectively ensure that no more girls undergo the practice.


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Endnotes •

WHO (2020) Female Genital Mutilation Available at

Campaign, 28 Too Many “it happens here” by Ogilvy & Mather (2015) Available at

Equality Now, Jenny-USA, Available at

Dawson et al, (2020) Addressing female genital mutilation in the Asia Pacific: the neglected sustainable development target, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol 44 (1) 8-10 Available at full/10.1111/1753-6405.12956

Orchid Project (2016) FGC in the Middle East and Asia. Available https://www.

Emma Batha, (2016) Singapore comes under pressure over female genital cutting of babies Thomson Reuters Foundation Available at

World Health Organization, Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An interagency statement, WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNIFEM, OHCHR, UNHCR, UNECA, UNESCO, UNDP, UNAIDS, WHO, Geneva, 2008

The Girl Generation, (2021) Breaking the links: Islam and FGM Available at https://

Zimmermann (2011) Male circumcision is not comparable to female genital mutilation, BMJ, 342:d978 Available at

Zimmermann (2011) Male circumcision is not comparable to female genital mutilation, BMJ, 342:d978 Available at

G Clark, (2018) Changing Culture to end FGM, The Lancet ,Vol 391, 401 Available at

The, Conversation (2018) The Rise and Fall of FGM in Victorian London

Home Office ( 2011) Female genital Mutilation: The Facts, Available at https://



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