See something, say something! In our times of imminent aggression, unpredictable dangers, and morphing violence, this is a social mantra we all recite daily. As our modern society advances in technologies of protective surveillance and pre-emptive action against every possible evil, we become increasingly cautious, caring for our integrity, and defending our space. What we often forget, in our defensive strategies, is that not all evils are visible; the way we look is a culturally endowed practice, so much so that seeing is not really seeing, but rather recognising ideas and concepts we've been taught.
What happens, though, when we see, but we can´t recognise? Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a hidden form of aggression which often evades social scrutiny, one type of violence we might all miss at first glance. Seeing, in this case is, by itself, irrelevant. What matters is knowing: knowing that more than 200 million women alive today suffered from Female Genital Mutilation, knowing that this cruel practice is a severe violation of the human rights of girls and women, and acknowledging that, if nothing is done, approximately 3 million girls will still be victims of FGM annually. What matters is not ignoring, not forgetting, and not accepting!
We addressed the topic before, and we now return to it, with the certainty that every spoken word against FGM counts, every message weighs against this dangerous practice, and every effort to educate is a step closer to taking down the barrier of silence surrounding it.
Despite the intense work of global organisations like the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund to effect policy change, advance research, and eventually eradicate this practice, to mainstream media and public opinion Female Genital Mutilation remains an under-discussed topic, and often a taboo. This deepens the gap between awareness and eradication, reproducing a regime of silence that mimics ignorance.
In the words of Arifa Nasim, Founder and Executive Director of London-based Educate2Eradicate, a newly launched organisation committed to raising awareness about Female Genital Mutilation: “When discussing irreversible harmful practices such as FGM, prevention is the key to eradicating the practice.” We subscribe fully to this, and understand the essential role of education and informed dialogue in eliminating FGM as a form of cultural violence with deep consequences for individuals.
We hereby call our community to acknowledge the importance of educated social seeing, of informed conversation, and outspoken attitude that can remove the cloak of invisibility keeping millions of girls and women victims of a traumatising, unnecessary, and irreversible practice.
Join us in calling for better access to information, education, and training with the purpose of preventing Female Genital Mutilation and protecting thousands of young women at risk. Sign the petition here.
Words: Elena Stanciu