July 25, 2011
Amira Yussif is a 16-year-old Sudanese-British teenager. She is typically British in every aspect. She wears trendy jeans, a mini-skirt with tights in the winter, and loves to dance when she has the chance. But for her, her life changed two years ago when her family attempted to force her to return home to be “circumcised.”
“It was horrible,” the young teenager began at a friend’s house where she has been staying for the past two years after running away from her family. “They said it was to protect my honor and dignity until I was married. I tried to explain to them that I am a good girl and that this is not what I wanted.”
When her family purchased plane tickets to Khartoum, Yussif made a move, backing one bag and leaving for school one morning, not to return. Since then, she has lived with a family friend in a London suburb, maintaining her school work and continuing to push on with life.
“It is hard, but I was not going to go through that procedure because I don’t believe it is right in today’s world, whether we are here in Britain or in Sudan,” she told Bikyamasr.com.
She is one of the “lucky” ones who escaped the procedure. With more reports being published of young girls being forced to return home to have what most in the human rights community refer to as female genital mutilation – the cutting of a woman’s genitalia – the British government is pushing back.
Prosecutors across the country have been sent new guidelines to assist in the prosecution of those who try to have their children undergo the procedure.
The Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2003 allows for the prosecution of British citizens who breach the provisions of the act and perform the procedure abroad, often in Africa or the Middle East. While the law appears strict on paper, it appears to have limited practical effect, the a recent report in The Guardian stated.
The British government has investigated more than 100 claims of genital mutilation over the past two years, but there were no convictions. In comparison, French authorities have successfully prosecuted 100 cases.
The practice is “barbaric,” said Jane Ellison, a Tory member of Parliament, who wants the issue taken more seriously.
Ellison called the procedure “a brutal crime perpetrated against those who are least able to protect themselves: little girls and young women.”
“In every case, the health of the girl or woman is damaged, often irreparably,” Ellison said. “What is most shocking of all is that a great many of these criminal acts are perpetrated against girls aged 10 and under, right down to infants.”
Yussif continues to tell the story of a number of friends who have been forced to undergo the procedure and says that she hopes that people do not see it as a religious idea, instead that FGM is believed to be a practice that “guarantees a girl’s honor as she grows up.”
It is “not Islamic, but a cultural practice that through education our societies can hopefully end. It is horrible to think how many people in today’s world have had it done. I love Sudan and my people and this needs to stop,” she added.