A new FGM Hotline was launched today to help girls who may be in danger of female genital mutilation (FGM). The FGM Hotline is launched in conjunction with an Australian visit by FGM survivor and activist, Nimco Ali, to raise awareness about FGM as a problem facing girls in Western countries.
British-Somalian Nimco Ali will be in Conversation with Anne Summers in Sydney on 24 September and Melbourne on the 28th. Nimco has been a powerful advocate against FGM. She succeeded in getting British Prime Minister David Cameron to speak out against FGM and to promise to enforce the laws prohibiting the practice domestically and that are meant to prevent taking girls out of the country. This is an opportunity for Australians to learn from Nimco about how the UK has been tackling the problem of FGM which also faces thousands of British citizens.
Why do we need an FGM Hotline?
Sometimes people know about plans for a girl to be mutilated (“circumcised”), but they don’t know who to call or what to do, so girls remain vulnerable. Girls themselves may know they may be facing FGM but do not know what to do, or who to turn to. Girls and members of the community now have a dedicated FGM Hotline to call if they fear that they themselves or a girl they know are going to be either subjected to FGM in Australia, or taken overseas for FGM. The FGM hotline will be staffed by trained executives from the not-for-profit organisation No FGM Australia. No FGM Australia is a charity that works to protect girls from female genital mutilation through education, lobbying and awareness raising campaigns.
Is FGM a problem in Australia?
FGM, also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is a centuries old traditional practice which involves the coercive removal of little girls’ genitalia. It is considered a violation of human rights and a form of violence against girls. It has no benefits, only harm. FGM is practiced in 29 countries in Africa, in several Middle Eastern countries and Asian countries including Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Singapore. Many people have moved to Australia from countries that are affected by FGM.
The practice of FGM continues after arrival in Australia. Anecdotal evidence of girls being taken from Australia to FGM affected countries is rife, and there are practitioners working illegally in backyard operations in our own cities. Currently there is a case in NSW of two girls who were ‘circumcised” in Sydney lounge rooms. No FGM Australia estimate that there are 5640 girls in Australia who are in high risk of FGM. There are also 1100 girls born every year who may also be in high danger of being subjected to FGM. That is 3 girls a day born in Australia who are at risk of significant harm.
Research shows alarming lack of knowledge about FGM
Lack or awareness that FGM facing girls in Australia is a huge problem. Recent research by the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit has revealed that 10% of a representative survey of paediatricians had seen a girl who had been subjected to FGM. The same research found that many professionals are not aware who could be in danger of FGM, or how to act if there is a concern, particularly if no harm has yet occurred. As prevention is the aim, this new FGM Hotline will be a source of referral for any frontline professionals who may be unsure about whether there is indeed a need to act to protect a girl from FGM.
The Hotline and the Interview with Nimco Ali aim to raise awareness about the harmful effects of FGM and also help people realise that, as child abuse, FGM is everyone’s problem. All girls deserve to be safe regardless of their culture, traditional beliefs or the colour of their skin.