Fears for London girls if Gambia's FGM ban ends

There are fears that children in London could be taken to The Gambia to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) if it becomes the first country in the world to overturn a ban on the practice.

A midwife specialising in FGM told the BBC that the Gambian diaspora in London could use school holidays to take their daughters home for the surgery.

More than three-quarters of Gambian females aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM, according to the UN.

A London-based survivor of FGM, from Nigeria, said she feared any overturning of the ban could spread to other countries in Africa.

WARNING: article contains upsetting content

FGM was outlawed in the west African nation in 2015 but a second reading of the FGM bill passed in March, with 42 MPs voting to legalise it and four against.

In the procedure's most severe form, after removing the sensitive clitoris, the genitals are cut and stitched closed so those who have been mutilated cannot have or enjoy sex.

Huda Mohamed MBE, Whittington NHS Health Trust's FGM specialist lead midwife, says the procedure can cause issues including incontinence and nerve damage.

Huda Mohamed
Midwife Huda Mohamed supports survivors of FGM [BBC]

She said: "We have a huge community from Gambia, that lives in the UK and what's that going to give them?

"It's going to give them the right to do that to their daughters when they take them back home.

"I will tell the Gambian community who lives in England: 'You have a law to protect you, your daughters are protected.'

"So therefore, if they're born in this country, it's illegal - whether you're from Gambia or anywhere in the world - that you take your child back to Gambia [for FGM}."

Halimot Ogunnaike, an FGM survivor from Nigeria, said: "Even my worst enemy, I wouldn't want them to go through that.

"The only power I have now is my voice and I'm going to use that to fight them and I'm not stopping.

"We are talking about little children here. That's really bad and once they are able to pass this law, it will affect other African countries as well."

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron recently said: "If this goes ahead, we should consider sanctions and travel bans.

"I don't want Gambian politicians shopping in Harrods if they just voted to cut girls."

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