The Importance of Talking About FGM
FGM can cause significant physical, mental and sexual health difficulties in girls and women (1). As an investigative professional, you have a special opportunity to help and support the well-being of FGM survivors. This important responsibility should be handled with care and consideration, in order for the patient or client to feel comfortable and secure. To attain a respectful and trusting context between you and the individual, it is crucial that you communicate effectively and discuss their FGM status in a culturally competent and sensitive manner.
Oftentimes, girls and women living with FGM do not seek help when they experience health complications linked to the FGM procedure because they may be ashamed or embarrassed (2). Another reason for delaying care is that many community members “normalize” health complications related to the FGM procedure, so women do not think they should consult a health-care provider. In contrast, women who attain care for medical complications may not know that FGM is linked to their health problems and therefore may not mention their FGM status to the health professional. For the above reasons, speaking openly and sensitively about FGM with your female patients is very important.
In addition to creating a comfortable environment, you have the unique opportunity to change perspectives about FGM, thereby helping girls and women living with FGM openly discuss their needs and feelings. Transforming attitudes about FGM encourages FGM survivors to speak openly about their experiences and is a crucial step towards preventing further FGM cases in communities. In order to achieve these various roles, you must speak about FGM with understanding and empathy yet in a non-judgmental manner.
Female genital mutilation/cutting: a global concern. New York (NY): United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund; 2016 (https://www.unicef.org/media/files/ FGMC_2016_brochure_final_UNICEF_SPREAD.pdf, accessed 19 July 2020).
WHO guidelines on the management of health complications from female genital mutilation. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2016 (http://www.who.int/ reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/management-health-complications-fgm/en/, accessed 19 July 2020).