AN AFRICAN anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) campaigner is coming to the Scotland for the first time in order to raise awareness about the fight to end the practice.
Christine Alfons, 22, from Kenya, is part of a joint project between the Church of Scotland Guild and Feed the Minds, an international development charity which raises awareness of the impact FGM has on women and girls both in Kenya and Scotland,
During her visit Christine will help Feed the Minds launch the partnership and talk about how it will work to protect girls across the world.
FGM is a traditional practice that involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia, usually without anaesthetic or antiseptic treatments being use.
Christine said: “At the end of primary school, everyone apart from two of us were cut. You are told that you must be cut to become a woman, it is seen as a rite of passage.
“My dad did not want his girls to go through the cut. He had attended school up until secondary level, interacting with women who were uncut. That exposure made him question the practice of cutting, and he ordered that his girls would not be cut.
“When I reached 12 years of age, the community members were telling me and expecting me to go through the cut. I had to stay in my house and people didn’t visit, I was worried people would snatch me away. If I had gone to the marketplace, or maybe out visiting family, it would have been dangerous.
“Girls that are not cut are said to be unclean. Elders in the community tell people they cannot be married.
“A lot of my friends that are cut have had problems when they give birth, huge amounts of pain, and their wounds open up again and take a long time to heal.”
Earlier this year First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised to intensify the Scottish Government’s efforts to combat FGM, pledging nearly £220,000 aimed at ending the “violation of the human rights of women and girls” and putting a halt to the “unacceptable and illegal practice”.
Police Scotland previously said it investigated 14 possible cases of FGM involving 16 girls in the year up to summer 2015.
FGM has been illegal in Scotland since 1985. Individuals responsible for the abuse face prosecution and a conviction can mean up to 14 years in jail. It is also illegal to take a female abroad to undergo FGM.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Female genital mutilation is an unacceptable and illegal practice.
“It is a form of violence against women and a violation of the human rights of women and girls. It has no place in the Scotland we all want to live in.”
Christine said: “I have seen FGM do much damage in the community. When my friends in primary school were cut, they were unable to finish their education because they had to drop out.
“Once they left school, all they learnt was how to be the woman in the family, to help their husbands.”
According to the World Health Organisation, FGM is estimated to lead to an extra one or two baby deaths per 100 deliveries worldwide.
Women with FGM also have increased risk of stillbirth, infants that need resuscitation and low-birthweight babies.