Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, is noted by both Unicef and the World Health Organisation as a violation of human rights, with Unicef also noting that it is a worldwide issue. FGM is the injuring, cutting or changing of female genitalia without any medical reason for having done so.
There are no health benefits, only damaging consequences – including constant pain, repeated infection that can lead to infertility, problems with urination, consummation and childbirth, mental health and, in some cases, death caused by blood loss or infection.
The procedure is often due to beliefs regarding femininity and how a woman should act – particularly when it comes to sexual behaviour. The belief is that FGM will ensure virginity before marriage and discourage infidelity.
There are four main forms of female genital mutilation:
- Clitordectomy: removal of all or part of the clitoris.
- Excision: removal of all or part of the clitoris and the inner labia – can include removal of labia majora also.
- Infibulation: sealing the vaginal opening by cutting and moving the labia.
- Other injuries: including pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping or burning.
While in some countries, FGM may be carried out by a medical professional, it is often performed by traditional ‘circumcisers’ or ‘cutters’ who do not have medical training. Tools can vary between scalpels, knives, scissors, razor blades or pieces of glass and often no antiseptics or anaesthetics are used.
Manor Gardens is a charity centre for health and well-being based in North London, promoting well-being and social inclusion. In partnership with the Maya Centre, which provides counselling for women, the Health Advocacy Service of Manor Gardens runs the Dahlia Project – focusing on women who have experienced FGM.
The Dahlia Project provided a non-judgemental safe space and therapeutic support groups ‘in areas of London where there is need’. It is the first psychotherapy service for women affected by FGM in the UK.
Leyla Hussein has been the project coordinator of the Dahlia Project since 2014. She is a psychotherapist, activist and campaigner on FGM and gender rights. Hussein has produced articles, tedx talks and a documentary regarding these subjects.
If you or somebody you know could benefit from the help of the Dahlia Project, contact 020 7281 7694 or email Alev Erce at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to find out how you can help the Dahlia Project, you can visit their LocalGiving page.