Monday, 7 September 2009
The cut - a traditional rite of passage into womanhood: genital cutting. Or an issue that should concern us all.
Some of my longer-standing readers will remember Papillon's story which I translated from her French blog. It was all about her quest to have reconstructive surgery for the genital cutting she had suffered at the age four. If you haven't read it, please at least consider reading the first two or three posts which tell of how it happened. "When I was 4 my mother had me circumcised. It ruined my life".
It was over two years ago when I found the blog and asked her if she would allow me to translate it so that young English speaking women could benefit from her experiences. Since then, I've had numerous enquiries from people asking if the surgery is available in the UK (no), and how to go about contacting Dr Foldès, the surgeon who developed the procedure.
Recently I've heard that a Spanish surgeon, Pere Barri of the Instituto Dexeus, has spent some time in Paris with Dr Foldès, and now operates two or three times a month. Not only that, he is hoping to share the knowledge and skills with other clinics in Spain so that more women "can leave their ghosts behind".
The practice of FGM used to be more or less confined to sub-Saharan Africa and a few parts of the Middle East and Asia but nowadays, with migration and population movement, the incidence in Europe and elsewhere has been increasing. It is illegal to carry out the practice in Europe but it is so very hard to counteract traditional beliefs.
There are various initiatives in progress. One in the UK is a survey which is funded by the Health Department to increase knowledge and understanding about FGM and to try to find out how much training might be required by health practitioners. France had an informative and educational campaign in April. There are initiatives in a number of African countries: Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, and several others.
Now from Norway there is a project to educate and raise awareness which has produced a documentary film called "The Cut". This, the first episode, shows two girls from different villages in Kenya where FGM is still practised in spite of its being illegal. One girl has rejected the practice and is actively working to help educate people, the other is about to undergo this traditional but harmful rite of passage. It goes some way to explaining the tradition, incidentally showing unequivocally that it isn't specifically an Islamic practice, and suggests a way it can be eradicated.
If you wish, you can download the film, less than 15 minutes in length, from the project website. It doesn't make the most pleasant viewing, but nor does it go out of its way to shock.