One of London’s only clinics to help women who have suffered female genital mutilation (FGM) is being forced to close because of funding cuts by the Labour-controlled Ealing council.
The Acton African Well Woman Centre houses experts in the field of FGM with the expertise to assist women who have been through the trauma of the procedure.
FGM is common in many African nations, and has become increasingly common in the UK with mass migration.
The gruesome practice, used to suppress and control female sexuality, has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but no one has ever been prosecuted for the crime in Britain.
Defending the funding withdrawal, a spokesman said “Ealing council’s priority is to raise awareness of FGM and the support available to a wider audience,” reports The Guardian.
“We will continue to commission FGM awareness work in the borough to reach more people such as schools and community groups and signpost women to clinical support”, they said.
The clinic was notified of the council’s decision late last year, but the closure was confirmed following the rejection of a last-ditch appeal to Ealing clinical commissioning group for alternative funding.
Since opening in 2007, the Acton clinic has seen more than 1,000 women in its fortnightly open hours and staff have performed upwards of 500 deinfibulations – a reversal of the most extreme form of FGM.
Leyla Hussein, a psychotherapist, survivor, and campaigner, has referred women to the clinic. “What commissioners need to understand is that there’s a taboo,” she said.
“[Women] aren’t going to go to the clinic in their area and we shouldn’t put barriers around them when they need to have access. I’m shocked and disappointed that the commissioners didn’t take that into account.
“A majority of women are cut by women. The idea of these women trusting other women is a big deal. That they trust them is brave of these women to do that. Now that they have become confident and trusting, it’s going to be taken away from them.”