A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

FGM: A Human Rights Issue

FGM is the acronym for Female Genital Mutilation, a highly controversial procedure practiced in parts of the world to ensure the virginity and sexual fidelity of young women when they reach puberty. In recent days, it has become for me a deeply troubling issue and I feel compelled to devote at least one blog post to discussing it.
If this is something you'd rather not think about... feel free to stop reading...

But as a mother of two girls, it haunts me that this practice has crept into a country with high views of human rights like Australia and not much has been done to prevent it. My sense is that authorities are afraid to trample on cultural sensitivities so an issue like this gets swept under the radar or left in the too-hard basket.
Worst still, medical practitioners here and in the US have been making noises about a modified form of mutilation to prevent parents from going to backyard practitioners here or overseas. Maybe it's just me falling behind the times, but my suspicion is that not too many people know much about FGM and what the procedure entails.

I've been following a series of stories the last two months that began with an ABC piece on the occurrence of FGM in Melbourne. The article calls it female circumcision. The reality is that it isn't circumcision or anything like male circumcision... far from it... and far more brutal. Some have even called it barbaric.

Female circumcision is illegal in Australia, but experts say there is evidence that it is being practised here.
More and more migrant women are also seeking help after having the procedure in their home countries.
Across Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, female genital mutilation is practised on about three million girls and women each year. The centuries-old custom has been outlawed in Australia since the 1990s.
But that has not stopped it happening here, according to Dr Ted Weaver from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
"There is some evidence to suggest that it does happen in certain parts of Australia," he said.
"It's hard to gauge the actual numbers because it's prohibited by legislation and it's something that is performed in an underground way.
"But certainly there have been reports of children being taken to hospital after having the procedure done with complications from that procedure."
Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital says it is seeing between 600 and 700 women each year who have experienced it in some form.
Last week I posted a couple of news items regarding the way our culture sexualizes our children and bombards them with sexual messages and images. That is one extreme. The other extreme in certain other societies is to "desex" their daughters in the most painful way possible to prevent sexual intercourse from being pleasurable.

Aayan Hirsi Ali, a refugee from Somalia and Denmark (now residing in the US) has first-hand knowledge of the process:

I won't reproduce it here but here's her article in The Daily Beast. She goes into quite a bit detail. I must warn you, it's not pleasant...


  1. I hope you don't mind Lilian, but I am going to share this on my fb page. It's an issue I feel very strongly about too. Satan is so unutterably evil!

  2. Hey lillian there was an article in cosmopolitan many years ago about this (including pictures) and it has always stuck with me. The writer told about the occurance of it in africa alone, but now i think was this perhaps happening in australia in the 90s and a girl wrote in about it - but censorship or government prevented it from being 'our problem'? If so how disappointing a system we have. Thank you for sharing.

  3. No, I don't mind, Ky. It is important that more people know what this is about.

    Decdah, I think most people see this as someone else's problem but it is happening in our backyard now. Look, I'm an immigrant myself so I have to be careful what I say but this is a transplanted problem and I don't think the authorities quite know what to do about it without being politically incorrect.


Let me know what you think!