The Human Impact

“FGM is bad, but it’s not child abuse,” says London-born victim

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When London-born Jay was a teenager her mother suggested she join a secret women’s society in Sierra Leone. There would be a big party, new dresses and she would be treated like royalty.

“If they’d told me what the real deal was I would have probably skipped town!” she says. “I wouldn’t have got on that plane.”

Her humour masks a long struggle to come to terms with what happened during that Easter trip to her parents’ birthplace. Jay Kamara-Frederick is a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Jay’s story is unusual. Her Catholic father and Muslim mother, who had moved to Britain in the early 1970s, were keen for Jay and her brother to integrate. She recalls a happy if strict childhood growing up in Shepherd’s Bush, a mixed neighbourhood in the west of the capital.

As a teenager, Jay attended a Catholic school and loved reading, playing the guitar and writing short stories.

The pain is far worse than childbirth – FGM survivor

Britain has announced new measures to tackle the hidden crime of female genital mutilation making it compulsory for doctors and nurses to record FGM cases. London community worker Sarian Karim Kamara, who underwent FGM as a child in Sierra Leone, told me how it has affected her life and why midwives are on the frontline in efforts to end the brutal practice.

“I’ll never forget what happened to me. I was only 11 years old and I’m 36 now. I’ve had five children and the pain I went through on that day cannot begin to compare to any of my labour pains. It’s indescribable.

Some people might think that FGM is just a cultural practice, that it is normal or acceptable for some communities. But it is not acceptable because it causes so much physical and psychological harm and has no benefit at all.

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