Friday, 19 June 2009

Friday afternoon

and the end of a busy week. Outside, the clouds gather - close, summery weather, with a sharp snap of coldness to it.

Several meetings this week that get the juices flowing and anomalies creep out as I begin to suss out twitter.

Clearly, Germany's laws against FGM are not as well-founded as ours. A young girl is being allowed to return to Ethiopia, where she is at certain risk from FGM. In spite of being German born, her parents believe that she needs to undergo FGM. She is 10 years old. I wonder what becomes of innocence when mutilation is concerned? What were you doing aged 10?

There is an on-line petition to sign, perhaps you may be persuaded:
"Help us protect a 10-year old girl from FGM!"

A long meeting with the woman who does community outreach. She points out that the women she works with are ground down by so many issues - health, education, access to services, language barriers, cultural barriers, sometimes violence in the home, often, as asylum seekers, simple overall fear of being sent "home".

FGM can sometimes come way down the list. Particularly, when you discover that some women are genuinely not aware of what has been done to them. Seriously. Because imagine if this has happened to you when you are 3 - how would you remember? How would you know that this is a different thing - particularly if, back in your community at home, all little girls, teenage girls had exactly the same thing, "down below."

She tells me of an occasion last week when a woman had called up and asked whether the "bridge" they had between their legs, the "bridge of thick skin" - whether that meant they had been cut. Yes. It did. She went further to explain that it was always difficult for any of these women to access healthcare, particularly sexual healthcare, because of a belief that any touching of the genitals was forbidden. So even for women to go for a smear test was not allowed.

The things that slowly reveal. Lastly, she and I talked of the partnership with the Islamic Cultural Centre and the importance of the seminar taking place on Monday 29th June, about women, sexuality and health (and indeed, violence) in Islam. For more details on this seminar, check out

Earlier in the week, some of these worlds came together, with a report on Woman's Hour of what women in this country call their own genitals. It was fascinating to realise what taboos we have - even talking euphemistically about genitals in our society seemed so hard - how would others expect to find it easier?

Again, more questions than answers, but I'm enjoying the unravelling......

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