Health workers in Australia are calling for greater education about the practice of female circumcision as they increasingly treat women living with the procedure.
By
Katrina Yu

UPDATED 10:48 AM - 26 Aug 2013

Health workers in Australia are calling for greater education about the practice of female genital cutting - also known as female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision - as they increasingly treat women living with the procedure.

It is a growing challenge for workers responding to demand for female genital cutting from new arrivals from African countries, where the practice is widespread.

"Twenty years ago it was never spoken of,” Louise Farrell, Chairman of Women's Health at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told SBS World News Australia in a report aired on Sunday night.

“In the last 10 years, with the increase of African immigration, it has become more of an issue and that has led to resource people in most of the tertiary maternity units throughout the country because there is an awareness that this is a problem that is growing in Australia, because of our immigration from Africa," she says.

The topic of female genital cutting is rarely spoken of outside Australia's African communities but Faduma Salah Musse, a migrant from Somalia who was forced to undergo the procedure in her home country when she was just six years old, spoke to World News Australia about her ordeal. She is one of the few women in Australia to ever to speak publicly.

“You bleed, you just cry, you can't defend yourself,” she said.

“Imagine having an operation, live, without anything. Somebody is cutting your body and you are just lying there hopeless,” she continued.

WATCH: Interview with Faduma Salah Musse (via YouTube):

Faduma, who regrets forcing her own daughters to undergo FGM back in her home country, is speaking out to help change cultural mindsets among migrants newly arrived from FGM-practising countries where the procedure is based on deep-rooted cultural beliefs.

“It has nothing to do with religion, it's just something cultural.

“You don't have a choice. You have to do it because otherwise people will talk about you. It's shame, Maybe your daughter, no one will marry her so, you have to do it,” she said.

Female genital cutting is carried out anytime between infancy and 15 years of age, and is practised throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It is illegal in Australia, as is re-stitching a woman after she gives birth who has undergone the treatment.

While there is no evidence beyond anecdotes that female genital cutting take place in Australia, health workers are aware of migrants returning to their home countries to have their children undergo the procedure, or to be re-stitched themselves.

WATCH: Interview with Zeinab Mohamud, who works on FGM cases for the Royal Women's Hospital (via YouTube):

WATCH: Katrina Yu's story on FGM (via YouTube)