Published Wednesday, 03 February 2021
Ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, 6 February 2021, Coventry City Council and partner agencies, are publicising a new poster, designed by a young person.
This is part of the ongoing commitment to raise awareness of the issue and end Female Genital Mutilation in Coventry.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is considered a form of child abuse and an extreme form of domestic abuse. It includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and has no health benefits. It is illegal in the UK and also illegal to take a British national or permanent resident abroad for FGM or to help someone trying to do this.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures may have posed extra difficulties and risk of FGM to children and young people, with school closures reducing contact with teachers and health professionals, as well as more families being at home, and restrictions on travel outside of the UK, which may have increased tension. Staying indoors is even harder for people whose home is not the haven it should be and enforced isolation may increase abusive behaviour, reducing victim’s ability to access help and support.
As part of Coventry’s zero tolerance policy and commitment to eradication FGM a poster campaign for 18’s and under was launched to raise awareness of the issue and to get the conversation started among young people as the future generation of parents in the city. The winning poster will be added to the Safe to Talk website and was designed by 14-year-old Saoirse Staff to represent the voices of young people on such a difficult and sensitive topic.
“I knew a bit about Female Genital Mutilation before doing the poster but after researching more I realised how awful and traumatic it is. It shocked me how many women and girls it is affecting as I didn’t think it was that common, so I really think it needs to be talked about more and I hope this poster starts conversations. I don’t like girls thinking what has happened to them is unique, so they should know that they are not alone and more importantly what happened to them is not okay - it is a breach of their human rights.
“I'm really grateful for the opportunity to make this poster as now I am so much more educated on the topic and I'm so grateful that people will see my poster and it will make them a lot more aware of FGM”.
The City Council is continuing to work alongside partners across the city, including Coventry University, West Midlands Police and health professionals across Coventry and Warwickshire to eradicate FGM by supporting culture change, protecting girls at risk, supporting women affected by FGM, supporting communities to oppose the practice, raising awareness and supporting the law.
Cllr Pervez Akhtar, Deputy Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities, said:
“There is no question that FGM is child abuse and the message is simple - it must not be tolerated under any circumstances. It has no health benefits and can causes terrible and lasting physical and emotional harm to the victims.
“We would urge those at risk, or individuals and professionals worried about someone they know, to break the silence and get help so that we can end this abuse once and for all.”
The consortium of organisations are joining together to reaffirm their citywide commitment with the following statement:
“Girls and women have the exclusive right to make decisions about their bodies. None should see their body subjected to any kind of violence or abuse under any circumstances. FGM is a severe breach of human rights and a dangerous violation of women's physical integrity.
“The ongoing pandemic and lockdowns have been a cause for concern as children and young people have had less face-to-face contact with teachers and health professionals due to school closures and being at home and so it has been harder to pick up on these cases. These environments are crucial for children and young people to express their concerns, which could lead to identifying someone as an FGM victim, leaving many without the opportunity to seek support at present.
“We continue to be united as one voice that enough is enough and there is zero-tolerance for FGM. No custom, tradition, culture, religion or so-called honour can justify such a dangerous criminal act in violation of the rights of women and girls. We will continue our work to end all forms of violence against women and girls.”
If you are worried and need local advice and support about FGM, Coventry Haven Women’s Aid offers specialist practical and emotional support for women, children and girls who are victims, or at risk, and safe refuge accommodation. They can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone: 08001114998.
You can also download the Petals app, previously launched in Coventry as UK’s first FGM web app. The app is free and offers advice on how to get support and deal with FGM. It can also be used by people who want to find out more about FGM and how it might affect them and others they may know.
The video ‘It Stops With Me’ shares experiences of what FMG means for victims in Coventry and the lasting impact.
You can visit the World Health Organisation website for any further information about The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation campaign.