Education And Debate

Female genital mutilation in France

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6994.1592 (Published 17 June 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1592
  1. Colette Gallard, family planning counsellora
  1. a French Family Planning Association, 4 Irenee Square, 75011 Paris, France

    The French Family Planning Association first protested to the World Health Organisation in 1977 about its continuing silence concerning the genital mutilation of girls in Africa and the Far East; that same year the French delegate to the regional council of the International Planned Parenthood Federation brought the issue before its medical commission.

    At the time, this protest was based more on feminist concern for the defence of women's rights than on the family planning association's experience of female genital mutilation; but over the next few years, with the arrival in France of African immigrants' wives and families, mother and child protection centres and family planning centres, where our members worked as counsellors, saw the problem surface in a tangible way.

    Some of these centres are in areas with high migrant populations, and coming face to face with the facts of female genital mutilation was often quite a brutal experience. The social pressure of these traditions and their psychological repercussions on women, as well as the physical damage inflicted, were first brought home to me through seeing a happy, communicative little Malian girl whom I had followed from birth, return from a “holiday” in Mali rendered aphasic from shock (and needing several years of psychotherapy to speak again); the traditions became very clear …

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