New conference to discuss ways of abolishing female genital mutilation in the UK

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University of Leicester to host event on Friday 6 March ahead of International Women's Day 2015

'We believe that education is the way forward to eradicate FGM. Therefore, in this symposium we are also launching an educational package for both professionals and communities alike'- Sadiyo Siad, FGM survivor, activist and campaigner.

This year, more than 20,000 girls under the age of 15 will be at risk of genital mutilation in the UK.

The controversial practice, which involves the partial or total removal of female genitalia, has already robbed more than 66,000 British women of their personal liberties and bodily integrity, and is the focus of a symposium being held at the University of Leicester, on Friday 6 March.

Eva Organisation for Women (EOW), in collaboration with the University, will host a conference to bring together religious leaders, community activists, lawyers and doctors to discuss the illegal, yet widely undertaken tradition.

Contributors will discuss the medical and psychological impact of FGM, prevention, raising awareness and also look to understand the different cultural and religious cause of FGM.

The event hopes to build on discussions raised at a previous event held in 2011.

Former University PhD student, now chair of EOW, Dr Sadiyo Siad said: "The aim of the event is to provide a unique opportunity to gain invaluable perspective, insight and best practice and understanding of the current framework of FGM.

"This symposium will also highlight the importance of three dimensional approaches - community leaders and religious scholars, professional practitioners and local authors - which needs to be strengthened in order to ensure better awareness, early intervention and prevention of FGM, so that together we help these who really need our support.

"We at EOW believe that education is the way forward to eradicate FGM. Therefore, in this symposium we are also launching an educational package for both professionals and communities alike."

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - also known as Female Genital Cutting (FGC) - is internationally recognised as a violation of human rights with consequences including physical and emotional trauma and can lead to infections, such as tetanus, and shock.

There are a number of initial immediate dangers following the undertaking of the procedure, with potential acute and dangerous effects as well as more long-term factors.

They include:

• Haemorrhaging, leading to anaemia, which can also lead to death

• Wound infection, including tetanus

• Damage to adjoining organs from the use of blunt instruments by unskilled operators

• Urine retention from swelling and/or blockage of the urethra

• Painful or blocked menses

• Recurrent urinary tract infections

• Abscesses, dermoid cysts and keloid scars (hardening of the scars)

• Increased risk of maternal and child morbidity and mortality due to obstructed labour

• Infertility

• Psychological effects, from anxiety to severe depression and psychosomatic illnesses

• Likelihood of increased risk of HIV infection

Dr Siad, who was awarded the University of Leicester's Frank May award as well as the Volunteer of the Year award, in 2012, for her volunteer work, now dedicates her time to helping the victims of this potentially lethal practice.

She highlighted a number of traditional reasons for FGM, but said the idea that they were based on cultural beliefs did not make them acceptable. These include:

1. Cultural identity: A tribal initiation into adulthood

2. Gender Identity: Moving from girl to woman - enhancing femininity and gives better marriage prospects

3. Sexual Control:

• Believed to reduce the woman's desire for sex and therefore the possibility of sex outside marriage

• Enhancement of male sexual pleasure

• Preservation of virginity

4. Hygiene/cleanliness: Uncircumcised women are regarded as unclean and not allowed to handle food or water

The symposium will take place at 9.30am, on Friday, March 6, at the University of Leicester's Conference Centre and Hotel College Court, in Knighton, Leicester.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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