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The price of purity

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 01 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:0405204
  1. Samena Chaudhry, senior house officer in orthopaedics and trauma1
  1. 1Stoke on Trent University Hospital North Staffordshire

Female genital mutilation is illegal in the United Kingdom, but unfortunately it still goes on. Samena Chaudhry discusses the work of the charity FORWARD and what you can do to help young women at risk

“If you are in the middle of a forest you can't see how big it is. It was only when I came out of my culture that I was able to objectively look at how it was back home and to see that particular aspects of the culture are wrong,” confesses Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse, director of the Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (FORWARD). Looking back she realises that questioning the cultural practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) had never occurred to her while she was in Africa.

Kwateng-Kluvitse (whose mother comes from northern Ghana, where FGM is practised) states FORWARD's aim: “To work towards stopping FGM and to improve the health, wellbeing, and human dignity of African women.” FORWARD has rapidly expanded from a small office on the sixth floor of Eastbourne Terrace, London, to become the leading voluntary organisation in the United Kingdom working to eliminate FGM.

The facts

The practice of FGM is concentrated in more than 28 countries in Africa from the Gambia to Somalia and also in parts of the Middle East and Far East and in isolated communities in other parts of the world. The World Health Organization estimates that between 100 and 132 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM.1 The roots of it are complex and numerous. The justifications often …

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