Consultant gynaecologist Geetha Subramanian is one of only a handful of
medical professionals in the UK to carry out FGM reversals
Wednesday 17 February 2010
by Mark Gould
In a calm voice, Ann relates how, at the age of 12, she was drugged,
blindfolded, stripped naked and held down by a singing and chanting
group of women, who then used a surgical blade “to hack off my
clitoris like it was a piece of meat”.
Ann (not her real name)
is one of tens of thousands of women in the UK who has undergone female
genital mutilation (FGM), which can cause a host of health problems,
infertility and even death. FGM – generally referred to as “cutting” –
is illegal to carry it out on a UK citizen and punishable by 14 years
in jail. Yet latest research gives a conservative estimate that 77,000
women and young girls in the UK have been mutilated, and around 24,000
young girls are at risk.
Anecdotally, it seems that cutting is on
the increase, either being carried out in the UK or on “cutting
holidays”, like Ann’s to Sierra Leone. One explanation is that it
reinforces cultural ties of migrant communities with their countries of
Cutting can mean anything from removing the hood of the
clitoris to cutting off all the external genitalia and sewing up the
wound, leaving only a tiny opening for menstruation. It can be
performed using razors, metal, glass, string and thorns, often
Consultant gynaecologist Geetha Subramanian is one of only a handful
of medical professionals in the UK to carry out FGM reversals, known as
deinfibulation. From her NHS clinic at Mile End hospital in east
London, she sees women whose families originate in sub-Saharan Africa,
Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Indonesia.
who has carried out more than 200 reversals, first saw the problem over
20 years ago when a young Somali woman came for an abortion. “She had
been assessed by another doctor, who had not spotted the FGM,” she
says. “So many doctors and nurses are simply ignorant of it.