A 16 Year Old Girl Is Updating Reddit On How She's Being Kept In Somalia Against Her Will
The Debrief: Over 500 Reddit users have tried to offer support, advice and protection to a girl afraid she's facing FGM
UPDATE: The girl has got back in touch with her commenters to fill them in with how the situation played out and, there’s good news and bad.
First, the good. She hasn’t been cut. And, to her knowledge, never will be. ‘I didn’t get cut and it’s not in the plans, EVER. The aunt whom I am staying with is very anti-FGM as I’d suspected due to her upbringing in America. She swore she wouldn’t let it happen to me,’ she says in her latest post.
The bad news though, is that she’s now effectively being held captive in Somalia. Her father has decided that the girl and her siblings are to stay in Somalia until they’ve memorised the entire Quaran. The family has flown out of Nairobi in Kenya (back to the US) on September 5, but her father, who’s behaving in an erratic manner – ‘He thinks he has Alzheimer’s due to his horrible memory at 50 and his constant shakyness. I know he has been forgetful and shaky but I’m worried that the sickness is being used as a manipulation trick’ – is stalling on booking the flights from Somalia to Nairobi. She doesn’t think he’s going to book them.
The girl has had contact with an uncle in the US who was helping her apply to college and who’s now going to try and make a deal with her father that says she should be able to go back to finish her last year of high school and then return to Somalia before college as an 18 year old with her own passport.
The problem with this is that she’ll have to leave her siblings behind and she’s worried about the impact this will have on her relationship with her family.
You can read the full update here. And see below for the original story.
Yesterday, a 16-year-old American girl of Somali heritage posted on Reddit that she feared a family holiday to Somalia may, in fact, be used to perform FGM on her and her sister.
She posted, using an anonymous profile: ‘Long story short, in 10 days my dad will be taking my sis and brothers to a country in Africa where 98% of women have suffered from FGM. As a 16 year old who doesn’t want their vagina mutilated, I’m sooooooo effing scared. My mom had it done and I wouldn’t be surprised if she ok’d this.’
Female Genital Mutilation is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.’ It goes on to state that FGM ‘has no health benefits and harms girls and women in many ways… [it] causes severe pain and has several immediate and long-term health consequences, including difficulties in childbirth also causing dangers to the child.’
Over 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in this way, many of whom – as the Reddit poster suggests – are taken abroad to carry out the practice. In both the UK and the US, summer holidays are the time at which young girls are most at risk. As the anonymous poster puts it: ‘My suspicions are sparked by the odds, not so much my parents’ behavior.’
Like many 16 year olds, the girl posting on Reddit seems torn between a sense of duty to her parents, fear of the unknown and confusion over what the practice actually entails.
‘My cousins (Dad’s sister’s kids) told me about how they got it done when they went to Africa,’ she explains. ‘I was 10 at the time and didn’t understand what they meant by “getting down there cut a little”. I asked my dad about it and he looked pissed that his sister did such a thing.’
She goes on to say that, ‘I don't think it is physically possible for me to not go. My dad would drag my ass to the plane if it required it. Refusing things my dad says have never ended well. I need something drastic to happen, but I’m weary of calling CPS without any evidence.’
While the slang and tone used by the Reddit girl are typical of many American teenagers, her anxieties speak to a particular cultural situation. ‘[my dad] said it was barbaric and that it’s wrong. He also said it caused problems for my mom,’ she explains. ‘But my mom herself has said that it is “no big deal”. I’m hoping my mom sees it as a legitimate problem.’
The post already has over 570 replies, many of which point out that FGM is illegal in America, that it is an offence to take anyone out of the country to undertake such a practice, that there at fatwahs against it and that, from a medical point of view, it is extremely harmful.
‘I am a physician,’ begins one reply. ‘I can tell you that if you tell your pediatrician or OB-GYN of your worries, they will also get involved and do everything in their power (which is not inconsiderable) to make sure this does not happen.’
Here in the UK, the NHS has advice, support and information for anyone who believes they may be at risk of FGM.
British nationals abroad can also seek support from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office helpline on 020 7008 1500.
Other useful links
Childline helpline: 0800 1111
NSPCC FGM helpline: 0808 028 3550
Metropolitan Police (Project Azure – FGM) Helpline: 0207 161 2888
Crimestoppers helpline: 0800 555 111
Foundation for Women’s Health Research & Development (FORWARD) Helpline: 0208 960 4000
Equality Now Telephone: 020 7304 6902
Daughters of Eve text: 07983 030 488
FGM National Clinical Group www.fgmnationalgroup.org
Department of Health leaflet about FGM (PDF, 248Kb)
Female genital mutilation the facts (PDF, 439Kb)
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