Thursday, June 30, 2005

Female genital mutilation continues

BBC News:

Up to 76,000 women living in Britain may have been circumcised

A little over a year ago a loophole allowing girls to be taken abroad for genital mutilation was finally closed.

Parents who did so were warned they could face 14 years in jail - then Home Secretary David Blunkett calling female circumcision "very harmful".

But figures show that nobody has been prosecuted so far, prompting Labour MP Ann Clwyd to suggest: "Somebody is not taking this seriously."

With an estimated 7,000 girls at risk in the UK, is enough being done?

That female genital mutilation is happening to girls living in Britain is widely accepted by health professionals.

The operation involving the partial or total removal of the external genital organs has been illegal in the UK for almost 20 years, but it is suggested that it has been performed on 76,000 women now living in the country.

While it mainly affects members of the African community, opponents do not see it as a cultural issue but one of child protection.

One of the cases involves Leila, who was eight years old and on her first holiday abroad when her grandmother decided it was time for her to be circumcised.

She has told the BBC that as she was screaming with pain during the procedure, her grandmother said: "What are you screaming for? It's for your own good."

The threat of imprisonment has not eliminated the problem of female circumcision, says Forward - a charity supporting African women and girls.

"We do believe there are some girls being circumcised either here or outside the country," said community officer Enshrah Ahmed.

"But the whole thing is that it's surrounded in secrecy, so it's very difficult to catch people."

No Prosecutions on Female Mutilation, Complains MP

What is female genital mutilation?

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