Accurate data on FGM?

How can we get better data on female genital mutilation?

One of my pet hates is when people are naive, or worse, glib or flippant about how to tackle an issue. When they simply demand change without having informed themselves about the real issues.

On the other hand, sometimes the more you know about an issue, the harder it gets to find a solution.  I feel this is the case sometimes around teh whole FGM debate.

Firstly, I was pretty shocked at the scale of the data collected – it seems not to tackle some large sections of countries where we know FGM to be practised. Indeed, the 3 million figure that is quoted of girls at risk every year is only for Africa. Yet we know that FGM is widespread, say in Yemen, Indonesia, Kurdistan and other areas – so what happens to these girls? Are they simply not to be included? I also keep hearing anecdotally about other countries where FGM happens – a friend told me recently that she knows about FGM in South Africa, yet there are no recorded cases there.  For that matter, we know that 20,000 girls are at risk within the UK each year.

Secondly, the range of women affected seems very large – from somewhere between 100 – 140 million women. So much is expressed in that ” – ” in fact, 40 million women are discounted in that one little dash. It seems a lot, it seems strange that we can’t be clearer about why.

Other things – the data seems only to look at women aged 15-49, which again, seems to leave out very many girls under the age of 15 who will have been cut.

So, perhaps like you, I’ve been Ms Outrage, simply asking why why why. But, of course, once you get to a different level, things become clearer. Questions yesterday were posed by the INTACT group, an online resource for FGM and discussions – they looked at three main areas:

Which single indicator would be most useful for evaluating whether FGM has been abandoned?

How to overcome the difficulty of FGM happening at a very young age, hence how to cope with the legal and ethical problems of data collection from young people?

How to understand better the link between FGM and sexuality and how to collect this information?

These questions themselves deserve competent, complete answers if we are to understand better the scale and impact of the realities of FGM. And this is where we must look to those with experience on the ground to come up with answers. Yet we as “concerned amateurs” still need to identify that there are gaps in understanding and in knowledge and make the case for better gathering of information.

I wonder what other models there are that we could learn from in this instance?

Apologies for a post that contains more questions than answers. Sometimes I feel afloat on the complexities of FGM, that there are so few ways to make an impact on this debate. Othertimes, I look at a world that is trying to contain HIV or malaria; or has contained smallpox and wonder that this issue still eludes us.  That, surely, has to be a question of commitment?