Silvia is Leading our Work to Research Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK and the MENA Region. On International Women’s Day, she Comments on the Situation Internationally.

Ms Turay (aged 12) was mutilated at her aunt’s house where she had been staying with her three sisters and her cousin. “We didn’t even know that we were going to be initiated,” she says. “They called me to get water and then outside they just grabbed me.” She was blindfolded, stripped, and laid on the ground. Heavy women sat on her arms, her chest, her legs. Her mouth was stuffed with a rag. Her clitoris was cut off with a crude knife. Despite profuse bleeding she was forced to walk, was beaten and had hot pepper water poured into her eyes. “My mother had always told me never to let anyone touch me there. I was scared and I tried to fight them off. Nobody talked to me but there was all this clapping, singing, shouting,” recalls Ms Turay. “When I tried to walk on the seventh day I could not walk. All they could say is ‘Today you have become a woman’.” reported by The Independent online


Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognised internationally as a form of violence against women and girls, and as one of the most widespread and systematic violations of human rights.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female genital mutilation includes “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs practiced for cultural reasons and for any other non-therapeutical reasons”.

It is estimated that more than 3 million girls and women worldwide are at risk of female genital mutilation every year. About 140 million girls and women are living with a consequence of FGM and only in the African countries about 100 million girls age 10 years and above are estimated to have undergone FGM.

Worldwide, we are seeing great progress. However, while it was originally a traditional practice carried out in most of the African and in some of the Middle East countries, in the last years the number of women and girls who are victim of Female Genital Mutilation has increased in countries that were previously foreign to this type of practice (consider e.g. the United States or those of Europe). The UK is nowestimated to be the EU country with the highest percentage of girls at risk of FGM. This is due to the great migration wave that has influenced and that still influences our time.
UK was one of the first EU countries to develop specific criminal law provisions emitting the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act in 1985, that made FGM a crime throughout the UK. The Act was replaced by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, issued in March 2004, in which penalties have been increased and the concept of extraterritoriality was introduced. 

Several national and international human rights organisations work hard to raise awareness among people on this topic and have consistently pushed governments to adopt or to improve specific laws in order to reduce, or to eliminate, this cruel practice. Last 20 December 2012, the UN General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution banning the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. The FGM resolution urges countries to condemn all the harmful practices that affect women and girls, and to take all the necessary measures, including enforcing legislation, awareness-raising and allocating sufficient resources in order to protect women and girls from this form of violence. 

The struggle to combat Female Genital Mutilation should not end with the writing of a report or the watching of a movie, but it must continue to bring concrete results that can offer the chance of a safer life to those women and girls who are at risk of mutilation.