Thousands of Girls Subjected to Female Genital Mutilation in Ireland, Experts Warn

Ex-female genital mutilation (FGM) cutter Monika Cheptilak, who stopped practicing after the country set anti-FGM law in 2010, shows a homemade tool from a nail used for FGM, during the meeting of anti-FGM women group in Alakas village, bordering with Kenya, northeast Uganda on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates …
YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

An estimated 6,000 women and girls in Ireland have had their genitals mutilated, and experts warn that another 3,000 girls are currently at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).

At a conference in Dublin, activists gathered to decry the practice of FGM and called for a national plan of action.

The Journal reports that Senator Ivana Bacik, who helped craft Ireland’s anti-FGM legislation, said that the practices should be treated as “a serious form of child abuse”.

FGM, sometimes referred to as “cutting”, is a cultural practice in which some or all of a pre-pubescent girl’s external genitalia is removed. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM worldwide and that every year three million girls are at risk of being cut.

The practice not only can cause long term physical and mental damage but can also, in some cases, lead to death. Last year a man from Somalia defended female genital mutilation, even after his daughter died during the procedure from loss of blood.

Instances of female genital mutilation have been recorded in 30 countries; the majority of cases take place in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

But the numbers of girls and women cut in Europe, Australia, and North America has started to rise, due in large part to growing migration from countries in which FGM is practised.

Earlier this year in the United Kingdom, a woman from Uganda became the first person to be convicted of FGM. She was sentenced to an 11 year term for allowing the cutting of her three-year-old daughter’s genitals, leaving the girl with permanent physical and likely psychological damage.

The practice has also been illegal in Ireland since 2012, but as of yet no one has been convicted.

One of the main issues in ridding the Ireland of FGM is that mothers are often pressured by relatives to return to their country of origin to have their daughter cut.

Salome Mbugua, Head of Operations and Strategy at Akidwa, told The Journal that: “What we are hearing now from women is that they believe [FGM] is a harmful practice and they wouldn’t want it to happen to their children, but there is still a lot of pressure.”

“They’re being pressurised from where they’re coming from, being told they shouldn’t wait long [to have FGM carried out on their daughter],” added Ms Mbugua.

Mothers told the conference that they feared to return to their home countries, out of worry that their daughters would be cut without their consent.

Senator Bacik has introduced legislation that would not only criminalise FGM in Ireland but criminalise parents who bring their daughter to their country of origin to be cut.

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