It is such a blessing to read your positive responses. Many visitors to the site are asking, ‘What can I do?’

There are currently no statistics available about what communities for whom cutting is a cultural practice, is doing to ensure their women and young girls are cut here in South Africa. Besides the Venda community who openly practices Female Genital Cutting, no one else is admitting to doing so here in our country.

We need health professionals who are willing to acknowledge that they assist patients when they come in for treatment after infection has set in. We need doctors at local clinics and hospitals to admit that they see patients coming into hospital seeking medical intervention after experiencing Fgm.

I believe the stories are amongst us. Whether it’s a family member who experienced it years back, or the lady who comes to cleaning your home. The stories are here…

In Papers prepared by Parliament for the Second Conference of the Pan African Parliament in October 2009, I quote ‘awareness and education campaigns should to be tailored to meet the needs of specific target audiences for example, health-care providers versus adolescent girls versus religious leaders. Information should be made accessible on the subject matter in various formats be it bill boards, posters or pamphlets. Notwithstanding that, given the behavioural and attitudinal change required to abandon the practice of FGM, what is also required is ongoing dialogue in safe spaces - where young girls and women are able to articulate themselves without fear of being ostracised or stigmatised - is crucial. The health and education sector along with communities share an equally important role in not just rendering the appropriate services, but also creating an enabling environment whereby FGM is recognised as a violation of human rights.’

With legislation in many countries outlawing the practice, many for whom it is firmly entrenched has gone into hiding and cutting girls even younger, so as to avoid prosecution.

It seems clear that educating communities about the far reaching physical consequences is key to helping them to understand what all the fuss is about. For many in rural communities who rely on ‘bride money’ for survival they do not understand and call the girls who choose not be cut thieves for robbing them of the bride money they would receive from the groom if procedure was followed and they were paid. In many of these communities the groom pays for the procedure before marriage.

With the women who have experienced FGM afraid to betray family values and cultural beliefs , the search for statistics is not easy.

I refuse to believe that this should stop any of us from pooling our resources in order to establish the prevalence of FGM here in South Africa.

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The global rise in campaigning against Female Genital Cutting continues as more communities, health professionals and governments become aware of the damaging after effects for those affected by it. News of the arrest of 38 women in Tanzania in December 2013 for performing illegal genital cuttings on a group of young girls  - to British law now making it compulsory for state hospitals to record all cases where genital cutting has been performed or where there is a history of it in the family, highlights successes in the drive towards better education and implementation for those within the movement.

Despite Female Genital Cutting being outlawed in 1998, it is still performed in some parts of Tanzania. It has been a crime in Britian since 1995. The Department of Health estimates that aprox 66 000 women in Britain and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM.

In February 2014 Waris Dirie stated ‘There is a war on our planet, bigger than all other wars. It is a war against little girls living in Africa, Asia, the US and Canada, Europe, Australia and South America. The name of the war is: FGM'

It is time South Africa. Time for us to establish how prevalent Female Genital Cutting or FGM is here in our country. We know that the people of Venda openly practices fgm. Why would there not be others doing so here?

During my research of the past few years I have spoken to medical staff at our local Children’s Hospital and they have confirmed my fears. Young girls are brought into our local hospitals suffering from the consequences of Female Genital Cutting. Doctors and staff are not required by law to record or report this!

We should be holding our health professionals accountable to record all cases coming into our hospitals and clinics. The South African Constitution protects the rights of young children. That includes the rights of young girls not to be subjected to harmfull cultural practices.

The Children’s Act under Section 12, “Social, Cultural and ‘Religious practices” states that “Female Genital Mutilation or the circumcision of female children is prohibited”.1 Under this Act provision for the protection from FGM is afforded to girls under the age of 18 years, whilst the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination in Chapter 2, Section 8 states that no person may unfairly discriminate against any person on the grounds of gender, including Female Genital Mutilation, indicating that young women and adults are also protected from this harmful practice quoted from the research papers.

It should be noted that South Africa’s Constitution is the primary legislative tool in the country and even though customary law and practices are recognised they do not take precedence over the Constitution.

What are the Somalian, Sudanese, Ethiopian and other refugee communities doing in order to uphold their cultural practices  while living in South Africa. We will only know the extent of the problem when all our health professionals are held to account to record the cases they are witness to.

Are ‘Cutting Parties’ being held here in our country? How will we know?

Legislation is in place to protect the rights of our young girls, the future mothers and daughters of Africa. We have representatives going to International conferences to represent us regarding this secret practice. Why is our government sending these representatives, spending vast amounts of money doing so? If not to ensure that the law is enforced and our young girls are protected? Why are there no posters and information packages available at our public hospitals and clinics in order to educate our citizens?

This is a Call to all our health professionals, doctors and staff at all our public hospitals and clinics to record the cases of young girls coming to be treated for complications from female genital cutting. I Call on Parliamentarians and other role players involved in the fight for the Rights of Children and women. Let us work together to educate our communities. Together we can implement measures to protect our young girls from Female Genital Cutting. They continue to be at risk if we all turn a blind eye!

(Quotes from Parliamentary Papers presented to The Second Conference of the Pan African Parliament in 2009: Waris Dirie quote from the Desertflower foundation:News 24 for the fgm news on Tanzania and British law)


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