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Khadija Gbla: The horror reality of female genital mutilation

February 08 2017 By Jessica Dempsey, Digital Communications Officer

CHRONIC pain, pelvic infections, development of cysts, abscesses and genital ulcers, excessive scar tissue formation, infection of the reproductive system, decreased sexual enjoyment and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Khadija Gbla is an advocate and women’s rights campaigner who wants to put an end to female genital mutilation. Image

These are just some of the long-term effects of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

I know this because of first-hand experience.

When I was 9 years old, I was taken on a “holiday” by my mother and another elder woman to the bush of Gambia where I was held down by my mother while an old lady took a blunt, rusty old knife and cut off my clitoris and my labia. I remember screaming in agony as I was cut, inch by inch. The trauma of that experience lives with me to this day.

When we moved to Australia as a 13 year old in 2001, I realised that this practice is known as FGM. I am so angry that I was subjected to this unnecessary act of violence. I have had a precious part of my body removed that cannot be replaced.

I bled for weeks but I was lucky to survive. Many girls die from this brutal act. Although the practice has existed for generations, hopefully with my generation it will stop.
Frequently, girls are taken overseas for the procedure but it’s also happening in Australia, right in our own backyard.

Currently there is no government data collected about female genital mutilation, however my foundation, No FGM Australia calculates that approximately 83,000 women and girls have been affected by FGM in Australia, and as many as 1100 children a year are at risk of being forced to undergo the procedure.

All Australians need to be aware that some little girls are in danger of violence in the form of female genital mutilation.

It is wrong to assume though, that because someone comes from an FGM affected community they will subject their daughter to FGM, however these girls are still considered in the highest risk group.

FGM is not culture, it is violence and torture. It is a human rights abuse, it is child abuse and it is sexual abuse. It is too late once it has happened.

Mutilated women and girls who immigrate to Australia can feel socially isolated, and experience psychological trauma because of their difference. Confusion and anger are common because in their country of origin FGM may have been a celebrated or associated with a highly valued status.

FGM has been universally condemned by the World Health Organisation in a resolution which was passed in 2013, and there are ongoing global campaigns aimed at stopping FGM.

Today, on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, I say that having zero tolerance is not enough. I believe we can we can do better to protect girls both internationally and in Australia.
Being aware of the problem is a first step. What we also need is a co-ordinated approach to better respond to and prevent FGM. This approach must include child protection services, health care, education, immigration and the police in order to be effective.

In Australia, all little girls are entitled to the same protections, regardless of their ethnicity or background.
If you are in danger of FGM or if you know of a girl in danger, please call 1800 522 707. No other little girl should have to endure my fate.

Khadija Gbla is the Executive Director of No FGM Australia and an Our Watch Ambassador.