Campaigner Leyla Hussein on why FGM is a British problem too

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Psychotherapist and campaigner Leyla Hussein is on the couch. “If this could speak, it would tell some stories.” Limbs crossed nimbly, Hussein leans into the brown suede: “I’ve cried on this; I came up with the idea for my counselling service; I crashed here after a day filming an FGM documentary.” Like many of the things in Hussein’s two-bedroom east London flat, the sofa is both a comfort and a repository for some of the past’s most testing moments. Somali-British and a “survivor” of female genital mutilation (FGM), Hussein, 37, has led a campaign since the early 2000s lobbying the UK government and raising public awareness. “I guess I’ve become the black, Muslim, feminist woman who writes and talks about sex and patriarchy — which is quite a rare thing.”

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The flat is a literal “haven” for Hussein, who was moved there in 2006 (the third time in two years) after receiving threats of violence related to her work. “I had been campaigning for four years and started calling FGM child abuse — people didn’t like that. I was physically attacked in the streets.” In the media, Hussein is a one-issue campaigner. But she is impatient with this compartmentalisation: “The issue is much broader; it’s about girls being told their bodies are not good enough.” She says the media want to define FGM as “what black and Asian people do” rather than a practice that encompasses intimate cosmetic surgery and extreme gynaecological procedures that were carried out on some British women into the 20th century.

https://www.ft.com/content/a7bbcda2-f6f1-11e7-88f7-5465a6ce1a00

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