We are being urged to fight the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation but how can we do so if we expect our teachers and doctors to notice kids who are at risk and try to protect them and inform parents but not if our government itself is unwilling to do so? I have even opposed feminist voices who used the anthropological argument to defend FGM.
We hold our stance on refugees and asylum seekers as offering protection to those who face pain, torture and possible death if they return to their countries.
How does this not apply to Afusat’s daughters? How can we risk the safety of a child to Female Genital Mutilation? A child that was born in the UK to a refugee?
The government is trying to send Rashidat (the child) and her mother back to Nigeria. Her mother fled a forced marriage to an older man and to evade the push of FGM to Bassy, her first daughter who is now four. Afusat’s fears are quite genuine, after all. Afusat herself went through the practice and she knows the two year old and four year old are both at risk of being forced into this unnecessary piece of mutilation.
We must delay the deportation. Nigeria has one of the highest absolute numbers of FGM anywhere in the world with a 35% incidence. Most are done by untrained traditional midwives and older women. The act of cutting is in itself a rite of passage and the culture is heavily entrenched. It is almost guaranteed that these kids would get cut.
All suffer permanent damage, some live in pain and some die.
FGM is illegal in Nigeria but the practice is often forced. With traditionalists such as the Boko Haram kidnapping and cutting young girls.
Both the UN and EU recognise FGM as a cause for asylum. Rather than leading the way, must we lag behind the curve? This is a case of humanity. We may not save all the women from this terrible practice but we must start with what we can.
We should be applauding women like Afusat, having the courage to defy the expectations she endured for the sake of her children. Not punishing her struggle by sending them to the doom she tried to escape. How are we to fight this practice if you keep sending the few people who can escape it back. It is these voices who stand up and push the dialogue of how the practice is bad.
We cannot send children back to any country where they risk such a pointless, harmful and misogynistic procedure.