The silence on female genital mutilation (FGM) in Australia is deafening.
Despite research showing that 11 girls a day in Australia are at risk of having FGM performed on them and despite the severe and ongoing trauma that FGM has on its survivors, I am constantly told by professionals that work with children, that FGM is not a concern here.
Female genital mutilation is seen as something that happens to little girls and young women that aren’t white in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, not in our progressive and beloved Australia.
It is seen as a ‘people of colour’ problem which is why it doesn’t get the coverage, attention and action it deserves.
Watch: An insight into female genital mutilation. Post continues after video.
According to the United Nations, 200 million girls and women have undergone some form of FGM. Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is the deliberate cutting of a female's external genitalia. The procedure is gender-based violence, whereby women and girls are subject to severe abuse and robbed of their sexual reproductive health rights.
FGM poses serious health risks including severe bleeding and issues urinating, cysts, infections and complications at childbirth.
For FGM survivors, the ongoing mental health impacts are far more painful than the physical scars, including coming to terms with the fact that the person who was supposed to love and protect you, was also your abuser.
The truth is that FGM happens to little girls and young women from all backgrounds. There have been a number of reports from white women in western countries coming out of the woodwork to tell their stories of FGM. There have also been instances of labiaplasty, the surgery of the labia minora, being performed on young white girls in Australia under the age of 18.
The husband stitch, which is a surgical procedure to tighten the vagina after childbirth, is also considered to be another form of FGM. An extra stitch is not medically necessary and is reported to cause pain and discomfort, and yet is performed to enhance the sexual pleasure for male partners.
FGM is certainly not an arbitrary issue that only happens abroad. In recent years, there have been two successful prosecutions of FGM in Australia.
In 2016, a leader of a sect and a nurse were convicted for arranging, hiding and performing FGM on two sisters aged six and seven at the time in NSW. The girls’ mother was also charged.