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FGM. End it – don’t medicalise it.

In June 2013 I was shocked to hear from anti-FGM campaigners in Egypt of the death of thirteen year old Soheir All Bataa as a result of female genital mutilation (FGM).  I was heartbroken at this needless loss of a young girl’s life and what was even more shocking was that the FGM was performed by a doctor. Someone who was trained to care for others and to do all in their power to preserve life had carried out this terrible procedure.

Campaigners fought a long battle for justice for Soheir and to hold the doctor responsible accountable. Finally he was found guilty of her death in an Egyptian court although shamefully he has not served any time in prison.

Since the death of Soheir there has only been very slow progress against FGM in Egypt. Many doctors still continue to carry out FGM with impunity and a few weeks another young girl, Mayar Mohamed Mousa, who was seventeen years old died during a FGM operation in a private hospital. We need much, much more to be done to stop FGM and to save more girls across the world from the terrible suffering caused by FGM.

As a sexual health nurse I work alongside doctors and nurses who are dedicated to their patients and deliver the most wonderful care and support. It is therefore hard to imagine how some healthcare professionals can betray their duty of care and perform FGM,   one of the most extreme forms of violence against girls and women. FGM has no medical benefits and has a devastating and lifelong impact on survivors.  Therefore I was pleased when the research team at 28 Too Many decided to look into this issue and help raise awareness.

It is estimated that more the 200 million girls and women alive today have experienced FGM and the medicalisation of the practice is not just an issue in Egypt. There are reports of FGM being carried out by health care providers in many other countries including Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Northern Sudan, and Yemen, and research tells us that in some of these countries one-third or more of women had their daughters cut by trained medical staff. I have also been told about girls being cut in private clinics in Singapore, Dubai, London and the USA but FGM remains a secretive practice and all too often little is done to properly investigate suspected cases.

Medicalisation is not a solution for FGM. Instead, as has been seen in Egypt, it institutionalises and reinforces the practice. There is a really easy answer to the problems caused by FGM – just stop it!

We should all be ashamed that each year millions of girls undergo FGM and it is unacceptable that medical professionals are sometimes complicit in this practice. I urge you all to read 28 Too Many’s new report and learn what is going on. Then, like me, get angry and do something about it. Join with the vast majority of medical professionals who stand against FGM. This can be stopped but we have to make that happen and we should do so now.

Read the full report at http://28toomany.org/fgm-research/medicalisation-fgm/


Hoda Ali
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