‘I still feel the pain sometimes’ says FGM victim

IT will make me a woman, I remember them saying that.” More than two decades later, the woman, who does not wish to be named, recalls the trauma of undergoing female genital mutilation as a child in Nigeria, where about 20 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone the abuse.

Aged just six, she was pinned to her bed by her mother and aunt while another aunt used a blade to cut her.

“I was only six-years-old and my mum came into my room that morning and she was extraordinarily nice,” she says. “She was telling me that she would take me to the park and take me shopping to buy new clothes. I could only wonder what I had done overnight to be so fantastic. I thought to myself maybe it’s my lucky day.

“She said you will have all this on one condition, if you do what I ask you. I said yes.

“Later two of my aunts came into the house and my mum came into my room. Somehow I was now in a panic about what she wants me to do. She said there was something in my vagina that needs to be removed so that in the future my husband would be proud of me. I didn’t really understand.

“I was really getting scared now. It will make me a woman, I remember they said that. They made me lie down and my mum held my legs and one of my aunts held my two hands and the other aunt cut me with a sharp blade.”

She adds: “I cried and cried and I was bleeding. She put this black mixture on me and there was even more pain and the bleeding didn’t stop.”

Eventually after two weeks of pain and depression, she was taken to hospital but was sent back home. “They said if this is female genital mutilation to go home because it’s something that happens to everyone,” she adds.

After moving to Middlesbrough ten years ago, the FGM victim has been seeking help in understanding what happened to her through the Halo Project, in Middlesbrough, which helps FGM victims, and women at risk of honour-based violence.

She says: “I still feel that pain sometimes. I had post traumatic stress disorder. I’m still coping with it now. I was on the verge of suicide because of the depression.

“I can’t block out that memory of that experience or the consequences.

“I lost relationships because at the point I felt so different. That’s why I went to the Halo project which is when I started to get some more awareness of what had happened to me.

“They could put a definition to what had happened. I went on a six week course and it has changed my life.”

Speaking ahead of the UN’s day of zero tolerance towards FGM, she adds: “I want to share my story to create awareness that FGM does no good in any way. Mentally, physically, emotionally, medically – it does no good, only harm. It’s an abuse. I was a victim but thanks to Halo I’m a survivor.”

SHE is one of around 137,000 women living in the UK thought to be affected by FGM, with a further 20,000 girls at risk. In the UK, figures from the NHS’s digital data service suggest that last year there were 1,060 newly recorded cases of FGM in England, with 265 reported in the North.

In the North-East, 20 FGM Protection Orders have been made since 2015.

Noreen Riaz, from the Halo Project, says: “We know there are 28 affected communities and there’s a large number of people living in the UK affected by this.

“We have evidence that some girls are flown to countries where it happens. We’ve also heard of cutters being flown into the UK.

“Girls at risk can be infants, right up to the age where they are getting married. In different communities and different countries the processes differ.

“It doesn’t excuse it but people think their children will be ostracised if they don’t do it. FGM is a child abuse. It’s a violation of human rights.”

Agencies in the North-East are working together to try and encourage more victims and potential victims to come forward.


Global event calling for end to FGM to start here

A worldwide social media campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM) is being launched in Dublin tomorrow with the backing of the #MeToo movement.

The event will be led by Ifrah Ahmed (29), who was born in Somalia and survived the barbaric practice.

She is now living in Dublin and helped organise this week’s demonstration, which is supported by celebrities including singer Imelda May.

Activists aim to mark zero tolerance day for FGM with a million #MeToo sexual harassment campaigners using the hashtag #MeTooFGM to indicate their support.

Speaking at the launch of the National Plan of Action, Ms Ahmed said: “FGM is the ultimate form of violence against women and female children…the forcible removal of a child’s sexual organs to control her sexuality has been going on since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs.

“We are calling on all women everywhere who care about women’s rights to support their sisters in 30 countries across the world to call for an end to FGM.”

Sharia law review recommends civil marriage requirement for Muslim couples

Muslim couples should be legally required to have a civil marriage in addition to an Islamic ceremony, a government-ordered review of Sharia law has concluded.

The measure would mean more women had protection under family law and would face “less discriminatory practices”, according to the independent assessment.

It also called for regulation of Sharia councils, which deal with aspects of Islamic law, but the proposal was immediately dismissed by the Government.

As home secretary, Theresa May launched the review to explore whether Sharia law was being misused or applied in a way that was incompatible with domestic law in England and Wales.

A report detailing the findings published on Thursday said the vast majority of people using Sharia councils were women seeking an Islamic divorce.

Examples of “bad practice” included inappropriate questioning on personal relationship matters and women being invited to make concessions to their husbands in order to secure a divorce.

In one instance a forced marriage victim was asked to attend a council at the same time as her family, according to the report.


Samia Shahid: Accused father in ‘honour killing’ case dies

A man accused of being involved in the death of his daughter in Pakistan in an alleged “honour killing” has died.

Samia Shahid, a 28-year-old from Bradford in West Yorkshire, died while visiting relatives in the country in July 2016.

Her father, Chaudhry Muhammad Shahid, 52, had been held as a suspected accessory and was released on bail.

He died on Sunday in a hospital in Lahore, his family confirmed. The cause of death has not yet been revealed.

Ms Shahid’s first husband Chaudhry Muhammad Shakeel is accused of her murder and is awaiting trial in Pakistan.

Initially it was said Ms Shahid, a beautician, had died of a heart attack but a post-mortem examination found she had been strangled.

After an arranged marriage to her cousin Mr Shakeel broke down, she married Syed Mukhtar Kazam. The couple wed in Leeds in 2014 and moved to Dubai.

Mr Kazam claims his wife was killed because her family disapproved of their marriage.


#thisisme campaign

Ms Khan, founder of forced marriage and honour based violence charity, the Halo Project, said: “The world can feel different, depending on your gender – gender can affect how safe we feel, where we go, what job we feel able to apply for and other people’s expectations of us.

“The challenges around gender stereotypes and inequality limit all of us and puts pressure on us to conform to outdated, traditional values which are out of sync with todays Wales.”

Former chief crown prosecutor for North West England, Mr Afzal, added: “This is the first stage in a campaign to raise awareness of the underlying reasons for violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, in order to challenge those ideas and behaviours and help build a society which does not tolerate these abhorrent acts.”

For more information or to join the conversation about stereotypes, search for or post under the #thisisme hashtag on social media platforms.



Welsh Government #thisisme campaign tackle gender stereotypes and prevent abuse

A CAMPAIGN has been launched by Welsh Government to tackle the underlying reasons for violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The multimedia campaign, launching today, is encouraging people to talk about their experiences and concepts of stereotypes using the hashtag #thisisme.

It includes TV, radio and online adverts showing people in situations and challenging ideas about gender.

This ranges from a man working as a midwife and woman working as a mechanic, to a young man expertly applying make-up and a girl playing with a truck, covered in mud.

The drive is also part of Welsh Government’s Live Fear Free campaign which is part of a longer term strategy looking at the causes and consequences of abuse and violence.

Leader of the house, Julie James AM, explained that “gender inequality is a cause and consequence of this abuse and violence” and that the campaign is part of an ongoing commitment to “rid Wales of the scourge of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.”

“It uses positive examples to challenge gender stereotypes and show that everyone has the right to be who they want to be and achieve their potential,” she said.


Domestic violence: ‘I was told to sleep in the outhouse’

As Welsh Women’s Aid marks 40 years of campaigning to end violence against women, Sarah from Monmouth reveals how living with an abusive partner made her question her own sanity.

It sounds such a cliche, but when I first met my ex-partner, he was the perfect gentleman.

We were friends for two years, having met through our young children. Both widowed, both lonely. Everyone, including family, thought it a perfect idea that we get together and, in October 2009, we did.

By the January we were engaged, and four months later, we went on our first holiday abroad with the children.

But while we were there, he saw me talking to an elderly man, and afterwards, back in the hotel room, he hit me for the first time, accusing me of spending too much time with him.

I was stunned, of course.

I said: “You will never do that again to me”, and the next morning, caught a taxi to the airport with my daughter to catch a plane home.

But there was a cruel twist of fate.

Due to a technical failure at check-in, all flights had been cancelled that day.

So instead of fleeing, I returned to the resort.

When he realised, he wooed me, apologising so profusely that It was impossible not to forgive him.


Play about FGM tours secondary schools to raise awareness of issue

Play about FGM tours secondary schools to raise awareness of issue

Play about FGM tours secondary schools to raise awareness of issue

A critically acclaimed play about female genital mutilation (FGM) in Britain is touring secondary schools to educate pupils on the issue.

The play Cuttin’It tells the story of two British-Somali teenage girls who have both experienced FGM, and will visit schools in London and Birmingham.

Each school visit includes a pre-show workshop and a post-show Q&A with year 9 and 10 pupils exploring the law surrounding FGM, the different types, and the impact on health, all led by Young Court, the inclusive programme arm of the Royal Court Theatre.

Young Court staff received training from Solace Women’s Aid and Louise Williams, a clinical nurse specialist at the women’s division of University College Hospital, in order to prepare for the sessions.

“Using theatre as a tool has been an exciting way to engage young people in a topic that can sometimes feel inaccessible,” said Ellie Fulcher, one of the organisers. “The work is essential in teaching young people about the female body, exploring gender stereotypes and external pressures in their lives as well as learning about FGM.”

Play about FGM tours secondary schools to raise awareness of issue

Honour violence and forced marriage crimes ‘go unpunished in London’

Hundreds of honour violence and forced marriage crimes are going unpunished in London, according to new figures.

Data shows that police recorded 759 honour violence crimes and 265 forced marriages in the capital between 2015 and 2017 – but just 138 people were charged with offences.

The statistics also show that prosecution rates for both crimes have fallen in the past three years.

Charities and campaigners today said the figures were worrying when nationally statistics showed the number of women coming forward to make allegations was rising.

Diana Nammi, executive director of the Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, which provides refuge for victims, said : “What makes it so alarming is that figures that we obtained through freedom of information requests show that, at the same time, since the criminalisation of forced marriage in 2014, many more people at risk than ever before are coming forward for help.

“As “honour” based violence is perpetrated by the victim’s own family and community there is a lot of pressure on victims to drop cases and too often justice is not seen. “London must not be a safe haven for perpetrators of these horrific, damaging crimes. We need to see much more action from the Mayor of London to tackle “honour” based violence and his priority must be to fund women’s rights organisations like IKWRO who are best placed to support victims and survivors who courageously come forward.”


Forced marriages support

Forced marriage is a hidden crime that’s on the rise, with recent figures showing an increase of 20% over the last two years.

In 2016 alone, there were 1428 reported cases across the UK, with more than one in ten of these taking place in the North West – making it one of the top three worst areas.

If you need help leaving a marriage you’ve been forced into, or you’re trying to stop a forced marriage, visit the following Government website: https://www.gov.uk/stop-forced-marriage

A survivor’s handbook with details of organisations that can provide help and advice, is available online.


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