Brighton writer and blogger Maddie Sinclair, pictured, is mum to a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. She’s also campaign manager for the ‘Love for Izzy Dix’ campaign, which raises awareness of bullying, low self-esteem and teen suicide by promoting love, kindness, compassion, empathy and respect.
FGM. Female Genital Mutilation.
Since when did something so gruesome become known as a simple abbreviation?
The first time I saw it in print I couldn’t find what it stood for and I had to Google its meaning. Why this fixation on the initialism? Is it merely to save on word count, allowing for snappy magazine headlines? Or a way to save a newspaper from having to print the word ‘genital’? Or is it something altogether more sinister – like a dangerous euphemism for something just too horrid to spell out. A series of letters used to dilute the true meaning of a terrifying practice.
It’s no ATM, HMRC, NHS, AGM or friendly LOL.
It stands for: Female. Genital. Mutilation.
- Female: ‘a woman or girl’
- Genital: ‘relating to the human or animal reproductive organs’
- Mutilation: ‘the action of mutilating or being mutilated; maiming, disfigurement; dismembering’ Together those three words describe the practice, traditional in some cultures, of partially or totally removing the external genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons. It’s commonly carried out on young girls up to the age of 15, usually before puberty starts and there are no health benefits.
This doesn’t deserve a family-friendly acronym. Because female genital mutilation is not family-friendly. It’s been known to cause infertility, bleeding, severe pain, infections, pain during sex and childbirth, the inability to urinate and even death. The procedure is traditionally carried out with no anaesthetics or antiseptics by a woman with no medical training, using anything from knives or razor blades to pieces of glass.
It’s estimated that around 24,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are at risk of this illegal practice each year, taken to their countries of origin to have the procedure during the summer holidays, allowing them time to "heal" before they return to school. This is known as the ‘cutting season’.
In February, 17 year old Fahma Mohamed from Bristol started an online petition calling on Michael Gove to write to all primary and secondary schools before the summer about the risks of the practice. The petition was signed by 234,375 people, Fahma met with Michael Gove and he agreed to help. Female Genital Mutilation is now part of the personal, social and health education curriculum and Fahma’s work has been inspirational in raising awareness and pushing for education on this issue.
And now there’s something positive and uplifting we can do to help too.
The charity Fahma is a trustee of, ‘Integrate Bristol’, has launched a new music video called ‘Use Your Head’ as part of their ongoing national campaign to end female genital mutilation and promote gender equality. It’s catchy with a capital C and we can help them spread the word by sharing this video across social media.
So let’s educate for change on FGM before it’s too late and the only abbreviations we’re left using are OMG and WTF.
To watch and share the video on YouTube, search for the hashtag #UseYourHead
You can read Maddie Sinclair’s blog at: www.gammonandchips.com