A reflection on the medical perspectives on female genital cutting (FGC) webinar  

By: Amela Tokić

On October 9th, 2021, community-led movement End FGC Singapore, which strives to empower Muslim communities in Singapore to end the practice of female genital cutting (FGC), hosted a virtual event to bring more attention to the medical impact and medicalization of FGC. 

Saza Faradilla, co-founder of End FGC Singapore and facilitator of the event, introduced the historical background of FGC in Singapore and the rise of FGC medicalization.  Guest speaker Dr. Ida Ismail-Pratt shared her medical perspective on the sexual, physical, and psychosocial impacts of medicalized FGC on women and girls. While the full event will not be published, End FGC Singapore will be sharing snippets on its Instagram page.

The Medical Perspectives on Female Genital Cutting (FGC) webinar dove deep into the impact FGC poses through migration, with a particular focus at western countries as well. This gave an interesting perception of FGC as a deeply rooted cultural norm, and thus many women and girls born in western countries would seek out FGC in the countries they had migrated to; alternatively, they could be forcibly brought back to their origin countries for the procedure, if FGC is not legally accessible in the migrated countries. 

This left many participants pondering and asking the questions: Is there a medically safe way to perform FGC? How would I recognize if FGC was performed on me? Is there a difference in consequences when FGC is performed on adults or infancy?

My personal highlight from the event was hearing Dr. Ida Ismail-Pratt share professional studies on the sexual impact FGC has on women. The studies focused on both women who have not undergone FGC and those who have undergone FGC, and it concludes that sexual desire is not impacted by having undergone FGC or not. This is a powerful statement, as many who undergo FGC are believed to have a lessened sexual drive as a result. However, the primary impact FGC has on women is the effect it poses on their sexual experience(s) – lower sexual satisfaction. 

This webinar was a perfect blend of a medical perspective along with a statistical analysis. It not only provided a professional opinion of the impact FGC has on women and girls, but it also provided solid evidence from survivors of FGC as well. One of the most startling findings is that the majority of women and girls are not even aware that they have undergone FGC, since it was done at such an early age. If they are aware, they often do not know who performed the procedure or with what medical instrument. 

For those interested in being part of future virtual events hosted by End FGC Singapore, you can follow them on Instagram and/or Eventbrite.

Read more about past webinars and/or donate to support the end of FGC in Singapore.

Upcoming webinar: Exploring the connections between religion and female genital cutting

By Sarah Boudreau, Programs Intern

Event: Exploring the Connections Between Religion and Female Genital Cutting

Date: Thursday, October 28, 2021

Time: 2pm EST

Registration Link: https://bit.ly/ReligionAndFGC

On October 28, 2021, Sahiyo will be hosting a webinar, ‘Exploring the Connection Between Religion and Female Genital Cutting’ (FGC). 

This harmful practice is often attributed to certain religions or cultures. Some might say these acts are justified because they are tradition or holy, not to be argued by those outside of the community. But does religion alone truly perpetuate the practice of FGC? How do survivors of FGC view the topics of religion and spirituality? And how do these things affect them in their day-to-day lives as women?

This virtual event will answer these questions and examine the FGC through a religious lens, including why it occurs and how it affects millions of women around the world. We will hear 3 expert speakers raise their voices while sharing insightful professional and personal experiences.The webinar will be moderated by Sahiyo U.S. Executive Director Mariya Taher and includes a panel discussion featuring Sameera Qureshi, Rahmah Abdulaleem, and more speakers to come.

Register today and join us as we listen, learn, and advocate for change for the future.

In addition, this webinar is part of a larger public awareness campaign that explores both connections and disconnections between religion and FGC, which Sahiyo will be initiating on October 28, in honor of the International Day of the Girl Child. When advocates speak about religion and its relationship with FGC, the conversation is usually focused on attempting to disprove the relationship and connection, rather than to uplift and highlight the idea that no religion should be permitted  to promote harm to a child. This campaign will explore the major themes connecting religion and FGC, emphasizing how religion should never be used to cause harm, regardless of leadership or textual sayings. Our hope in creating this campaign is  that we will educate the broader public on the right for women to choose and give consent, as well as the importance of agency over their own bodies. 

Speaker Bios: 

Sameera Qureshi, MS OTR, is an Occupational Therapist and Sexual Health Educator. For the last twelve years, Sameera has worked at the intersections of mental and sexual health education within Muslim communities, both in Canada and the United States. After twelve years in non-profit spaces, she founded her own business, Sexual Health for Muslims, in the Fall of 2020. The goal of her work is to create online, comprehensive sexual health education for Muslims, grounded in the tradition of Islamic spirituality and psychology. Sameera’s approach not only addresses the body and mind, but more so the soul, which is what Muslims are tasked with gaining self-awareness of. Apart from offering comprehensive, online sexual health courses for Muslims, she also provides one-on-one consultations, premarital education sessions, and regularly collaborates with Muslim organizations and other professionals in the field. Sameera also facilitates professional development opportunities for sexual and mental health providers who intersect and work with Muslim clients and communities. You can find her work on Instagram @sexualhealthformuslims, and on her website www.sexualhealthformuslims.com.

Rahmah A. Abdulaleem is the Executive Director of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. which aims  to create a global network of advocates who are both knowledgeable about the gender-equitable principles of Islam, and are able to advance the cause of Muslim women’s rights in legal and social environments. Ms. Abdulaleem  works with scholars to empower advocates about the rights Islamic law grants to women; she also  educates Muslim women in Islamic jurisprudence, leadership, and conflict resolution so they may become the leading agents of change within their communities. Ms. Abdulaleem has coordinated and presented at educational and civil rights programs around the world. Ms. Abdulaleem obtained her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and worked at a top international corporate law firm for 14 years. You can learn more about her work on her website https://karamah.org.