Imagine being strapped down against your will and having your genitals removed with a shard of glass by someone with no medical expertise, in the most unhygenic of conditions.
It sounds like something out of a horror movie.
Yet this is the reality faced by millions of young girls and women across the world – female genital mutilation (FGM).
And now a Nigerian teenager who escaped the horrors of FGM and fled to Greater Manchester is at risk of deportation after the UK Border Agency rejected her claim for asylum last year.
Manchester-based refugee and asylum organisation RAPAR are dedicated to protecting 15-year-old Olayinka against relatives in Nigeria who insist that she must endure the ‘traditional’ procedure that killed her eight-year-old sister in 1992.
After increasing pressure from her family and a failed attempt to force the procedure on Olayinka, resulting in her and her brother being savagely beaten, her mother Abiola Olaoye fled Nigeria in 2010 and currently lives safely in Rochdale with her children.
The hard work of the organisation has so far paid off and the Border Agency have agreed to let the family remain in Britain until the end of the school year, however with the deadline looming a fresh appeal has been made in the hopes that Olayinka can remain safe in Manchester.
Abiola, who has undergone the horrific procedure, said: “RAPAR has helped us organise a campaign to create awareness about our case.
“They also brought the case to the attention of the National Union of Teachers so teachers are aware of the situation and they are now able to see how FGM affects young women.
“RAPAR has provided us with emotional support and a sense of hope – they have contacted a wide range of people in order to give the campaign a bigger voice.”
Female genital mutilation is a procedure which involves partial or total removal of the female genitals usually carried out using basic tools such as scissors, razors or shards of glass and by women with no medical experience.
The sometimes-deadly procedure is still illegally practiced in many countries and in an effort to wipe it out in the UK, the NSPCC recently launched a helpline for young girls and women who are at risk of being ‘cut’.
Yet the threat of deportation still looms over Olayinka who is adamant that she would rather die in Britain than be deported to Nigeria to endure FGM, a threat she proved after a suicide attempt in July last year.
After her parents’ divorce in 2003, and her father’s death in 2010, the family are being blamed for the tragedies as it is a cultural belief that, without the FGM, bad things will continue to happen to them.
According to the World Health Organisation 100 to 140 million African women having endured FGM, and campaigners are now urging organisations across the globe to ensure that young girls will not have to endure the procedure.
The new NSPCC FGM hotline is an encouraging step toward total abolition of the procedure and leading human rights organisation Equality Now are delighted that charities in the UK are tackling the painful issue.
Lisa Harker, NSPCC Head of Strategy, said: “The UK’s child victims of female genital mutilation are hidden behind a wall of silence.
“Like other forms of abuse if female genital mutilation is not exposed it will continue to thrive and more children will suffer.
“Children who are at risk or victims of female genital mutilation often don’t even know it is abusive and harmful because it is done at the request of their family.
“They are told they are unclean and immoral if they are not ‘cut’ and that it is in their best interest.
“This is why we believe a dedicated helpline with specially trained child protection advisors is needed to help overcome the difficulties in protecting children from such a complex and secretive form of abuse.”
Advocacy Director of Equality Now’s Female Genital Mutilation programme Efua Dorkenoo said: “It is extremely encouraging that the NSPCC is announcing a dedicated FGM helpline.
“This will undoubtedly enhance the protection of girls at risk, but also those in need of counselling support.
“The provision of a confidential space for front-line professionals and members of the public to provide information and to know that it will be followed up on is fantastic and is a vital element of the joined-up approach to eliminating FGM in the UK.”
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Image courtesy of Guardian Films via YouTube, with thanks.