FEMALE GENITAL CUTTING (FGC)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Female circumcision, female genital cutting and female genital mutilation all refer to a range of procedures that involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs. A global movement to end the practice began decades ago, and over the years has had varying degrees of success in countries of origin.
SAUTI YETU'S VIEW
In the United States, FGC can neither be effectively understood, and therefore addressed, without considering the complexity of the environment within which African immigrant communities live. This environment is a matrix of issues concerning migration, gender, race, religion, culture, human rights and US immigration policies. US Federal efforts focusing solely on prohibitive legislation and laws, simply making the practice illegal, highlights their ignorance of the African immigrant context. Prohibitive measures lack any interaction between policy makers and the immigrant and refugee communities, and prohibitive laws may actually alienate the communities where the practice continues. This issue is intensified by the paucity of systematic studies of the prevalence of FGC in the US. This reflects both a political and scientific neglect of the practice. Without this information, the US, like other countries of resettlement, cannot reliably gauge the incidence of FGC. The existence of anecodotal, rather than research or clinical evidence, hints at the serious consequences for immigrant and refugee communities who may carry out the practice.
WHAT WE ARE DOING?
Our work on FGC draws upon a decade of grassroots initiatives aimed at supporting individual women and families, and by impacting public policy and mobilizing immigrant and refugee communities. By conducting evidence-based research and developing services, building grassroots women's leadership and social networks, we are dedicated to working within families and communities to end the practice. However, unlike advocacy that focuses on ending the practice, we work to empower women, especially those already cut, to affect change within their communities. In the United States, African immigrant and refugee women are triple minorities (immigrants, black and African).
What Resources Are Available At Sauti Yetu?
A resource package is available and includes the following fact sheets:
o Engaging Communities to address FGC and other gender specific issues
o Protocol for Health Care Providers
o Engaging Parents and Families regarding the Practice
o Supportive and Culturally Responsive Counseling
Note to Students Writing Papers
Sauti Yetu has an online Resource and Documentation Center. You are welcome to brows and look at the literature in the library. However Sauti Yetu will not provide access to circumcised women or girls for interviews or research projects.
Requests for FGC Photos by Non-Medical Personnel
FGC is an interesting topic especially for academic papers. Viewing photos for non-medical purposes is disrespectful and further objectifies circumcised women and girls. No one has the right to see photos of another human being's genitals, just to satisfy their curiosity. For this reason, Sauti Yetu will not make literature containing photos available to anyone other than clinicians and health care professional. For all others, written information is sufficient to understand the complexity of the subject.
The Dignity of Circumcised Women and Girls
In the United States, there are women and girls who have already been circumcised before arriving here. They need our support, access to services, and should be treated with dignity and respect. Our women and girls are double minorities and vulnerable in American society because many arrived here as refugees, asylees or are undocumented. The majority are also isolated because of language barriers and many are undergoing significant acculturation stress with limited support systems or resources.
Sauti Yetu chooses to use the term Female Genital Cutting (FGC) instead of FGM throughout our documents. A need for neutral and respectful terminology that is also separate from a medical and legal perspective led our agency to a thorough examination of and reflection on the terminology we used. Ultimately our decision to use the term “female genital cutting” was informed by our conversations with women and families in the community over the past decade. It acknowledges that "mutilation" is not the intent and not all forms of the practice lead to mutilation of the genitals. FGC is a neutral and respectful way to describe the procedure. We know that for some women and girls, what happened to them is a "mutilation." We respect their right to choose to use the word FGM to describe their own personal experience. We recommend that clinicians and service providers use the language most acceptable to the individual they are working with. “Circumcision” is a common English word used by many communities to describe a variety of types of FGC.