‘CUT’ – Some Wounds Never Heal
…A WAKE-UP CALL ON FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM) IN BRITAIN WHERE THOUSANDS OF YOUNG CHILDREN ARE AT RISK.
“It targets little girls, baby girls – fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. So it’s a crime against a child, a crime against humanity. It’s abuse – and it’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it. Everyone in the world has to recognise it’s high time to wipe out this crime against a woman.”
The school summer holiday is a peak time for the practice to be carried out overseas – usually without warning to the girls on whom it’s inflicted.
Executive producer Sharon Evans
’CUT’ – Some Wounds Never Heal’ is a free resource for schools. It reveals what lies behind a community practice that’s increasingly common here, as more families arrive from areas where what used to be called ‘female circumcision’ is practised.
Known more often as “cutting” among the communities where it is traditionally carried out, the procedure involves partial or complete removal of a young girl’s external sexual organs, often followed by the stitching up of that part of the body. It is a practice that stretches back to the time of the Pharaohs in Egypt – as evidence from burial sites shows – and is thought to be required if a girl is to be marriageable, as proof of her “purity”.
London News Report
THOUSANDS OF GIRLS AT RISK
The scale of the problem is staggering. Research suggests that up to 6,000 girls in London alone are at risk of “cutting”, and over 22,000 in the UK as a whole. Every year.
IGNORANCE IN BRITAIN
Equally astonishing is the ignorance about in the UK. One teacher only discovered one of her pupils had been cut when the girl collapsed in the school toilets – it’s often agony to urinate after the procedure. Tragically, the pupil had told her teacher she was going to be “cut” in the summer holidays that year – but the teacher didn’t understand and reassured the little girl she would be all right. She wasn’t.
A STATE OF DENIAL
Denial continues at the corporate level too: Heathrow officials refused to put up posters warning that departing travellers would be committing an offence if they were taking daughters away to be “cut” – until a senior director of the airport stepped in to set matters right. And ‘Desert Flower’, the feature film of Waris Dirie’s life, much of it shot in London with stars like Timothy Spall, Juliet Stephenson and Sally Hawkins, has yet to get UK distribution. Unlike the 36 other countries where it has been shown. ‘CUT’ features excerpts from ‘Desert Flower’.
‘CUT’ features a leading cast of interviewees, including:
- Waris Dirie, supermodel and former UN Special Ambassador on FGM
- Dr Hilary Jones, GP and TV doctor
- Dr Comfort Momo, top UK clinician on FGM
- Naana Otoo-Oyortey MBE of ‘Forward’, key agency on FGM in the UK
- Leyla Hussein, FGM victim and head of ‘Daughters of Eve’ support group
Extent of FGM:
FGM is widely practised around the world, from North Africa to the Far East and in much of the Arab world. It is often – but not exclusively – found in Muslim areas, though Koranic scholars agree that there is no basis for it in Islam. It is regularly carried out by medically unqualified women in completely unhygienic conditions, sometimes leading to the deaths of those subjected to it. It often causes severe, lifelong physical and psychological effects in its victims. Girls living in Britain are usually taken to a family’s home country to be subjected to it. It is suspected that the practice may also be happening within the UK.
Types of FGM:
There are 4 types of FGM, the most extensive of the clearly characterized methods (Type III) involving the removal of part or all of the woman’s external genitalia, and then stitching together (sometime through incisions made with thorns) the two sides of the vulva. Girls may then have their legs tied together until healing is complete. Infection and death as a result of this are reported. The procedure characteristically leaves an opening that may be as small as a matchstick head, through which normal bodily functions must be performed. This causes great pain and problems during urination and menstruation. Going to the toilet may take a victim up to 20 minutes. Retained blood from menstruation causes serious infections. Sexual intercourse and childbirth also create severe difficulties. ‘Opening’ of the victim may be conducted by her husband when children are desired. Sometimes, after this, re-closing is carried out.
The law and FGM:
It is seen here as child abuse, attracting up to 14 years’ imprisonment for those engaged in it, or those who assist it in any way. It is illegal in most countries.
The film and its role in schools:
‘CUT’ was financed by the Metropolitan Police, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with the backing of the Home Office and the Department for Education. It is intended as a PHSE classroom resource, and will be accompanied by a teaching pack and structures for role-playing the issues
FGM is a practice that needs bringing out into the open so that it can be addressed, by working with communities here to change minds. I felt the best way to achieve that was to have the people most affected – young girls – make their own film on the issue.
Some 6,000 girls in London every year are taken abroad and subjected to genital mutilation. Yes, it’s culturally sensitive but does that matter?
Before using the resource “CUT” you should inform your school’s designated Child Protection Officer that you are about to start the programme. The film is very powerful. It will often cause pupils and professionals alike to feel shocked and upset.
It is good practice to ensure all staff who are working with the film have had an FGM training session beforehand and seen the film as a minimum requirement. It is recommended that experienced PSHE teachers teach any FGM session. PSHE depersonalises issues to allow learning to take place. Pupils should be guided to where they can get personal help and support. This needs to be discussed at the beginning of the lesson and available for pupils to takeaway.
They should not be making personal disclosures in the classroom in front of peers. Teachers must control language, stereotyping and discrimination within the class to make the learning environment safe.