Well, really all of Western Europe and the US too. And, according to this article in Women News Network, one of the big problems is that the general public doesn’t know much about the horrific cultural practice and those who come in contact with immigrant children are basically unaware and untrained to recognize signs that a child is suffering.
From Women News Network:
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a topic that has been rarely associated with Western Europe, yet due to the arrival of immigrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, female circumcision has become a specific Western concern. It is estimated that in the European Union alone, 500,000 girls and women live with FGM and every year another 180,000 are at risk of being circumcised.
Therein lies one of the greatest challenges surrounding FGM in Europe, according to Leye [Dr Els Leye, a scientist at the International Centre for Reproductive Health at the university of Ghent (Belgium)]: “Those people that are most likely to come in to contact with FGM victims – teachers, health care staff, police, childcare workers – are not aware that FGM is a real problem nor are they trained to recognize the symptoms.”
A Somali woman in Ireland is fighting the practice there.
Ifrah Ahmed (23) was circumcised in Somalia when she was eight years old. “I don’t remember much. We were a whole group of girls being circumcised together.” Ifrah was circumcised a second time when she was thirteen. “I was circumcised by a doctor so I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones; I know of girls that were circumcised with broken glass.
What I still don’t understand is how a doctor – an educated man – can do such things to young girls.”
Ifrah fled to Ireland five years ago, when she was just seventeen. Today, she is a vocal opponent of FGM and one of the main faces of the European ‘Ending Female Genital Mutilation’ campaign. “I don’t want other girls to go through what I went through, no matter where they were born or where they live,” she says.
Even in Ireland, the Somali community has ostracized Ifrah for her stand against FGM and the social pressure to conform to tradition, also abroad, cannot be ignored. “Somali men here have told me that I should stop attacking things which are part of our culture and Somali women tell me that it will be my fault if girls can’t find a husband because they have not been circumcised. I have received threats, yes. I have even gone to the police with certain voice-mails and have had to leave Dublin because I am so outspoken about FGM.”
Despite her personal ordeal and the opposition she faces from her own community, Ahmed continues her campaign and remains optimistic. Ireland recently passed legislation outlawing FGM. Will imposing a law provide the answer, I ask her? “Certainly imposing a law will help, but we still have a long way to go,” she admits. “What is more important is that the law is enforced. Without follow-up, any legislation becomes meaningless.”
So where is the US campaign against FGM (you know its happening here too!)?
I’m heartened to see and to report that the National Organization for Women (NOW) has a campaign against the “barbaric” practice.