Female Genital Mutilation and Forced Marriages have a been a topic of much interest and debate as of late, with documentaries, charities and organisations shining a light and bringing these issues to the forefront. Of course both FGM and forced marriages are seen as a traditional and cultural way of life in some countries, which is what has to some extent sparked up so much controversy and debate among a lot of people.
On the 9th of December, the results of new research on young people’s views and experiences of FGM and forced marriage were revealed, and they show an interesting and insightful way into what the new generation thinks of what is considered to be traditional and cultural. The research was conducted by Foundation for Women’s Health and Development (FORWARD) with British young women and young men aged between 18 and 29 and all from ethnically diverse communities (incl. Kurdish, Africa and Asia) living in London from communities where FGM and forced marriage occur.
The research is entitled ‘I Carry the Name of my Parents’: Young People’s Reflections on FGM and Forced Marriage’, it highlights young people’s awareness of the harmful consequences of FGM and forced marriage and the fact that the majority of young people want an end to these practices. However many still believe in the underlying reasons why these practices continue – including protecting girls, preserving virginity and ensuring girls and young women adhere to cultural norms and values. In London, one of the researchers said that ‘there are now different ways of checking whether a girl’s a virgin’ highlighting that although she disapproved of FGM, the importance of virginity – and controlling young women’s sexuality was still strongly believed within communities.
On forced marriage, according to the research, many young people could not differentiate between forced and arranged marriage and felt that in some cases, forced marriage is beneficial for young people – families and young people may only see ‘good’ and ‘bad’ arranged marriages implying that there isn’t an identification of forced marriages.
Young people involved in the research stated that they needed more support to question the practices within their communities. This is because they respect the older generation and their values and practices make it difficult for them to question the views of the ‘oldest and wisest’. “…The older people have a crucial role, they are considered examples to the youngest, defenders of morality and good manners, and it is they who teach us to distinguish good from evil.” This highlights the difficulty of expecting girls and young women to report their parents in cases of FGM & forced marriage.
Saria Khalifa FORWARD’s Youth Programme Lead, who led the research, notes that “the current environment on pushing for FGM prosecution may potentially cause more harm for girls if there is not adequate discussion and provision of support to girls who disclose FGM”. Over 24,000 girls under the age of 15 in the UK are estimated to be at risk of FGM each year, and around 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
So where do you stand on the topic of FGM and Forced Marriages? Check out Channel 4’s documentaries ‘The Cruel Cut’ and ‘The Day I Will Never Forget’ for a bit more insight into what exactly these procedures mean and how they affect young women’s lives.by