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Many will mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for female genital mutilation/circumcision (FGM/C) on February 6th, and even claim success locally, nationally and worldwide in endeavors to eradicate this traditional practice. Few however will consider the negative effects that anti-FGM initiatives and interventions have had on targeted people.
High profile campaigns in the UK have promoted this approach, exemplified by political initiatives, legislation, activism, awareness-raising, surveillance, safeguarding policies with an overwhelming desire to prosecute. These have resulted in some Black and Minority Ethnic Communities locally and nationally feeling targeted, marginalised and stigmatised.
In Sheffield, many have experienced the negative impact of this safeguarding approach. Some women circumcised as children or young adults, mostly in their country of origin, feel victimised by the assumption that they will automatically subject their daughters to a practice most have since rejected. Some believe they have consequently been served e.g. FGM Protection Orders and had children removed merely because they belong to a particular ethnic group. Others have encountered unwelcome interventions because of the Mandatory Reporting duty. Systems that claim not to discriminate have left some feeling stigmatised and criminalised, while what should be relationships of trust with professionals have been damaged.
Challenging this orientation has been difficult and today some women at the receiving end will tell their stories and illustrate how problematic they have found it. Other contributors will put what is happening in Sheffield into a wider context. Together we will explore what communities and professionals can do to heal rifts and look towards working together more positively in the future.
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Lunch will be provided
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