“Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the worst physical and psychological scars a woman can be left with. My aunt cut me when I was 7 year old. I didn’t know what FGM was until the day it happened to me”, a statement by Ms Aasiya [not her real name], an anti-FGM activist from Somalia who sought refuge in Cyprus, contained in an email sent to our office on the occasion of 2016 International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
FGM is no longer a distanced reality for Cyprus, although, as per our record, it is not yet practiced in our society. However, many refugee women currently residing in our island are survivors of FGM, while some others fled from the immediate threats of themselves being cut or their daughters, if they return to their countries of origin. UN considers FGM as a universal problem that continues to persist amongst immigrant populations living in various parts of the world.
The Unit for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture (URVT) of the Future Worlds Center, that offers multidisciplinary assistance to refugees and asylum seekers who survived torture, during 2014 and 2015 recorded 32 refugee women who had undergone FGM in their countries of origin. While the vast majority is from Somalia, there are also FGM survivors from Guinea, Sudan and Yemen.
FGM causes continuing harm to physical and psychological health of the survivors and imposes severe challenges in their lives, preventing them from reaching their full potential. Adequate access to care and support are crucial in order to alleviate harmful impacts and to restore survivors’ capabilities to reach prosperity by participating fully in social and mainly economic activities that can ensure self-reliant.
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and therefore, is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a woman’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life. Globally, UN estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.
For Future Worlds Center team