12,000 girls in Belgium are at risk of genital mutilation
In Belgium, 12,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation and its physical, psychological and sexual consequences. On 24 March, the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp and GAMS (Group for the Abolition of Female Genital Mutilation) are organising a seminar for primary care providers on the causes and consequences of female genital mutilation.
In Belgium, there are 23,000 women who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). Without prevention, over 12,000 underage girls are at risk of being subjected to genital mutilation. Primary care providers such as doctors, midwives, and social workers play an important role in preventing girls from being subjected to genital mutilation, for example, during a visit to their relatives' country of origin. Therefore, ITM and GAMS are holding a seminar this week to help healthcare providers address FGM and intervene if they suspect there is a risk of FGM.
"Although female genital mutilation is illegal in Belgium, unfortunately, the danger has not been completely eliminated. Based on our research, we estimate that today 12,000 girls are at risk of being circumcised. That is why awareness is crucial," says Flore Bollaert of GAMS.
"In addition to paying attention to the medical aspects, healthcare providers also need tools for initiating a conversation when there is a suspicion of risk of genital mutilation," says Ula Maniewski-Kelner, an infectious disease specialist at ITM. "With this seminar, we hope to prevent as many people of psychological suffering, injuries, and even deaths as possible."
Forbidden, but not eradicated
Female genital mutilation is the partial or complete removal of a girl or woman's external genitalia. FGM is banned in many countries, but it is still often practiced. In Belgium, female genital mutilation is considered a form of child or women's abuse. People or families who perform or allow this practice to happen are liable, even if the procedure is carried out abroad.
Female genital mutilation causes severe pain, psychological suffering, and anxiety, as well as inflammation, severe bleeding, and injuries to surrounding organs. Sometimes, it can lead to death. In addition to psychological problems, female genital mutilation can lead to urinary problems, fertility problems, and complications during childbirth.
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