There’s a clinic in West London that undoes a small part of the damage done by Female Genital Mutilation, specifically infibulation. It makes the hole bigger.
Dr Naomi Low-Beer, Consultant Gynaecologist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and lead doctor for the FGM service at the West London clinic, performs the invaluable reversal surgery. She explained: “With the most severe type of FGM, the clitoris and labia have been totally removed, the vaginal opening closed, with a tiny passage left for urine and menstrual blood. This makes sex painful or impossible.
“Women with this type of FGM do benefit from surgery. It is often referred to as ‘reversal’, but rather than reversing the FGM the surgery opens the vagina so that women can have sex without pain. Otherwise, it can take months and months of painful attempts at penetration. A number of women come in to have the surgery pre-marriage or before their first relationship, and others come because they are suffering from repeated urine and vaginal infections or very painful periods. The surgery can help women with these problems too. It can be safely performed under local anaesthetic in the outpatient clinic. In offering this service, you feel like you’re making a difference.”
Not a reversal. Far from it.
FGM has been a criminal offence since 1985 and the 2003 Female Genital Mutilation Act made it illegal for British citizens and permanent residents to practice FGM within and outside the UK. To date, there have been no prosecutions. By comparison, France has convicted around 100 parents and practitioners.
Misplaced cultural sensitivities, a failure to see FGM as a child protection issue and a lack of accountability have so far impeded successful prosecutions taking place, Mrs Dorkenoo said. “The issue needs to be brought into the mainstream as a child abuse issue through a combination of education, protection and prosecutions.”
Momentum is growing in the campaign to raise awareness and eliminate FGM with the government making it a national priority. Last month, the London Metropolitan Police have, for the first time, arrested two people suspected of performing FGM on a five-week old girl. The case is under investigation and a successful prosecution would be a landmark victory and an important step to achieving the goal of eliminating FGM.
And that will free up Dr Naomi Low-Beer to fix things that were not caused by human fetishes and stupidity.