As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
More than 5,000 new cases were reported last year, many in London. “FGM is not related to religion”, World Vision activist Susana Oliver says.
The British National Health Service (NHS) has recorded 5,391 new cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK in the past year.
The majority had originally had FGM done to them abroad and as a young child.
ILLEGAL IN UK
Most of the cases were spotted by midwives and doctors working in maternity and obstetric units.
The practice is illegal in the UK and it is compulsory for family doctors, hospitals and mental health trusts to report any new cases in their patients.
FGM carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.
“THE GOVERNMENT MUST ACT”
"The government must act to attract and retain school nurses, to help address the problem at grassroots level, and maintain momentum in the fight to eradicate FGM", Wendy Preston, from the Royal College of Nursing, told the BBC.
She also believes that "mandatory reporting and compulsory sex-and-relationships education are important weapons in the fight against FGM, and school nurses play a vital role in both educating children and young women, and spotting those who may be at risk.”
"Protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims is a key priority for this government and a personal priority for the Minister for Women and Equalities, Justine Greening", a government spokesman has pointed out.
“END THE SILENCE THAT SURROUNDS FGM”
According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), “health services have started to properly record evidence of this horrendous practice.”
"It takes courage to report concerns as many feel ashamed or worry they will betray friends and family. But we need to end the silence that surrounds FGM to better protect children", they add.
“FGM IS NOT RELATED TO RELIGION”
Susana Oliver, Project manager of World Vision in Spain, told Evangelical Focus in an interview, FGM exists because “many societies believe that if a girl can endure the mutilation pain, she will also be able to endure the pain of pregnancy, which is her main role, the role of giving birth.”
Oliver explained that “mutilation started more than 4,000 years ago, so it predates most of the monotheistic religions we know today. But sometimes we can find people in other religions, sometimes Muslims, sometimes Catholics, who practice this ritual.”
“We have met people who told us that they have suffered FGM because it is in the Bible or in the Quran. None of this is true”, she added.
The World Vision Project manager emphasised that “female genital mutilation is not related to religion.”
“EDUCATION IS THE KEY”
“Education is the key. One colleague from One Vision Kenya told us that she was saved from mutilation because her teacher explained to her that she had the right to maintain her integrity, and she could oppose the mutilation her parents wanted for her. That girl had to escape from her house to avoid FGM”, Oliver recalled.
“It is very important to talk about the physical and psychological consequences of FGM, and the fact that physical integrity is a right of every human being.”
World Vision is working against FGM in many countries, and they believe that “it is vital that the people of the communities where we work know that we have values, the fact that faith is very important for us.”
“In Mali our work is more interdenominational, because most of them are Muslims, and our job is to find the common values between the Muslim and Christian faiths to fight against FGM through them”, she told Evangelical Focus.
FGM is estimated to affect up to 680,000 women and girls in Europe, including both women who have suffered it and girls at risk.