By Safa Gangat
The United Nations has recognised February 6th as International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). And how do we commemorate this in Canada? Well, a quick online search has the answer.
Type: “female genital cutting/mutilation Canada” and be prepared to be surprised. Nothing substantial turns up in terms of aid and no government funded campaigns or centres seem to exist in Canada. There appear to be no such place that provides females who have undergone FGC/M within the country (or overseas) with resources they might be seeking.
Is the Canadian government doing enough to keep their female citizens and residents from undergoing FGC/M? Or rather, is there enough provision of help for survivors of this practice?
FGC/M, an extremely unfortunate and in cases, a forced and violent practice, has reported to have been long occurring for more than enough time and the United Nations (UN) claims they are pushing to put an end to it by 2030. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGC/M has “all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women”.
Although FGC/M may be commonly viewed to be practiced in many parts of Africa and Asia, the U.S and U.K are part of this as well and so is Canada; FGC/M being illegal in all three. The topic of FGC/M happening in Canada seems to be largely lacking in conversation and exposure and as a consequence, females in the country are left with almost nowhere to go for counselling or expert medical help. Help that is crucially needed after undergoing a practice that leaves females with extensive emotional and physical trauma.
Last year, a study titled: Sahiyo had sent their findings to the Canadian federal government, which revealed FGM occurring within Canadian borders, according to Toronto Star. The study surveyed 385 women from a small Muslim sect known as the Dawoodi Bohras and found 80% of them had undergone FGC/M or “khatna” as labelled by the community. Two of the 18 participants who were Canadian, claimed that they underwent the procedure within Canada. But who is to say that those could be the only occurrences?
A significant lack of surveys and studies conducted by the Canadian government about the practise happening in the country shows there needs to be more of an attempt put towards finding out about possibly other instances.
Reyhana Patel, Head of Public relations at Islamic Relief Canada, who participated in a research report regarding FGC/M in Indonesia, previously urged the Canadian government to help put an end to the practice.
“The Canadian government can do more but there’s not enough research to understand the scale of the issue. We’ve talked to a lot of communities and survivors, we have evidence that it is happening but no knowledge of the extent.”
Without the efforts and funding by the Canadian government, girls and women could be looking for an outlet that doesn’t exist and their trauma is left to them to handle without professional help.
Mariya Taher, author and co-founder of Sahiyo told VIBE105 :
“I know women in Canada (who had undergone FGM), who went to women centres and felt it wasn’t the right place for them. They didn’t find the right kind of help; a result of lack of training in the case of FGC/M.”
Patel highlighted that funding is an extremely important factor when it comes to building resources for an issue such as FGM that isn’t talked about enough - without the money, the resources cannot be created for female survivors.
With a practise that alarms many people and is widely accepted as a violation of women's rights, is the scarcity of resources a result of something more along with a lack of funding? Taher points out that :
“There’s a lack of recognizing the emotional or physical consequences or even recognizing it’s another form of gender violence.”
The hope remains that Canada will participate in the UN’s efforts to push for end to the practise of FGC/M on a more substantial scale and work towards more research and resource development for the cause. Canadian women who fall victim to such a practice need an outlet that the Canadian government is responsible in providing.