A new law in the UK states that young girls, who are at risk for undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) in other countries, will have their passports confiscated. The law now places a legal responsibility on parents to keep their daughters from FGM, or face prosecution and potential jail time for committing a criminal offense.
Fahma Mohamed, an 18-year old female student who recently launched a petition in the UK for more information about FGM to be taught in schools, told VICE News that, “[People] need to realize that this is child abuse, and there are consequences. If you are caught you will be put into jail.”
FGM is the removal of some or all of the outside female genitalia for non-medical purposes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the violation of these females typically takes place between infancy and fifteen years old. Though FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, the new law is intended to protect its young, female citizens from “vacation cutting”- when a child is taken out of the country by guardians during summer vacation months to be cut.
The law, which protects habitual and permanent UK residents alike, will hopefully lead the way for additional FGM-preventative measures to be taken, including mandatory medical examinations for at-risk girls (which would require an address for FGM-related check-ups).
According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), more than 1,700 girls and women, who received treatment for various issues since April, had undergone FGM procedures at some point in their lives- 467 just in the month of September.
The topic of female genital mutilation is considered to be especially controversial. Saynad Mahamud, who came from the UK at 19 as a Solamian refugee and now is one of the organizers of the Kayd Somali Arts and Culture Festival, which recently hosted a poetry reading and writing workshop about FGM, believes that education and conversation, alongside the new law, is the best way to combat the problem. Mahamud said: “FGM is about women’s genitalia. No one wants to discuss women’s genitalia,” stating that, “This is an issue affecting women, and like a lot of issues affecting women, it’s not discussed.”
Let’s make sure that with the new law and an open dialogue that changes immediately.
Learn more about FGM here.