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It’s time to stop tiptoeing around FGM, says Leyla Hussein

In today’s world, the girl child is the most vulnerable, and female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the cruellest practices and forms of discrimination against girls and women. There are 200-million women in the world that have been victims of FGM, of which 92-million are in Africa. Each year three million girls are at risk on the continent. Every 11 seconds a girl will be cut.

Herself a victim of the practice, gender rights activist Leyla Hussein believes it’s time to call it what it is. Hussein was one of the speakers at the recent Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) in Johannesburg.

“I thought I had escaped the wort trauma of FGM but, after a routine examination, I blacked out. It was only then that I understood that I had blocked out the trauma of what had happened to me. I was cut with 200 million other women, purely because we are women. We need to call it for what it is.”

Breaking the cycle

She took on the role of breaking the cycle and to protect girls from this practice. “FGM is an attack on female sexuality and part of a war on female sexuality that also includes other forms of discrimination against women, such as child marriages and unequal pay for men and women.”

For her, language is very important in this work. “FGM is not a cultural or religious practice, it is child abuse. A cultural practice is the food we eat and music we listen to. Harming or abusing a human being is not cultural and we need to speak about it not as cultural but as abuse.”

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