The practice – illegal in the UK and considered as child abuse – is often perceived as being symbolic of gender inequality and has been widely condemned for being a traumatic procedure with no health or medical benefits.
In societies where it is practiced, FGM may be cultural tradition, despite the physical and mental pain it puts many girls and young women through.
Last month, NHS Digital figures showed that victims of FGM in Bradford were seen by NHS services around 55 times, between January and September 2019.
6 February marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, a UN-sponsored annual awareness day – in 2017, Bradford Councillor Joanne Dodds tabled a motion which led to Bradford becoming the second UK city to declare a day of zero tolerance for FGM. The day has since become an annual event and this year, it is held at the Bradford Council Chamber in City Hall from 10am to 12 noon, on Thursday 6 February.
Peacemaker International, based in West Bowling, works in Bradford and Manchester as well as in Nigeria, where its Chief Executive, Yemi Fagborun, was born, before she moved to Bradford in 1991.
Yemi, who herself underwent FGM as a baby, is an outspoken advocate against it: “FGM needs to become everybody’s business – we need awareness. It can cause infections, damage to the reproductive system, depression and anxiety. It’s a life sentence, once FGM is carried out, it can’t be undone.
“We want to use the Day of Zero Tolerance to evaluate, to know what’s working and what isn’t, and to see how we can improve. FGM exists in our cultures but we have to stop it. Some women are too scared to speak – as someone who has experienced it, that doesn’t surprise me. But please, just ensure you’re not going to let it happen to your children as well, or to anyone. Please do not condone or encourage it.”
Yemi will visit Nigeria this month to campaign against FGM: “We don’t want to limit our concerns to this country. In some countries, FGM isn’t policed. We’re lucky here to have support from police and services, but we need to help victims in places where they’re not as lucky.”
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “FGM may be done due to cultural norms, yet it endangers life. It takes courage to speak knowing those you love could be investigated, or you could be shunned, so it’s no surprise that FGM is cloaked in secrecy. But Bradford shining a light on this cruel practice is vital, so more girls and women feel empowered to speak out.
“Anyone worried about someone can call the NSPCC anonymously and for free on 0800 028 3550, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Children can call Childline 24/7 on 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk. If you think a child is in danger, call 999.”
Yasmin Khan, CEO of Bradford charity Staying Put, said, “Staying Put is proud to support Bradford’s Day of Zero Tolerance. FGM happens across the UK and worldwide. The impact is unimaginable and leads to psychological trauma.”
This content was originally published here.