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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2004, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
'I had female circumcision'
Woman with scissors
Thousands of women are circumcised each year
More than 74,000 women living in the UK have undergone female circumcision. One of those women tells her story.

Amina Ahmed wanted to be circumcised.

She asked to have the procedure after girls in her hometown in Somalia refused to play with her. They said she was "unclean".

Amina's mother was with her when she had her circumcision.

"One day, I was wearing a beautiful coloured dress and my mum called me.

"I was held by a strong woman who sat on my chest and hands, leaving me breathless and motionless.

I cried, I was screaming but I couldn't escape.
Amina Ahmed
"There was an old woman there who held dirty old scissors and a sharp knife.

"This woman was the circumciser.

"She had no medical training or experience and even her eyesight wasn't very good," she says.

"She cut me up and removed my clitoris, put it in a bag and threw it away.

"I cried, I was screaming but I couldn't escape.

"The scars and pain from all the health problems I have suffered are still with me today."

False reasons

Amina was told that the operation was done for religious reasons.

"I had been told it was part of my religion and yet other Muslim communities were not doing it."

Female genital mutilation is an extremely painful and harmful practice
Baroness Scotland
She was told the operation was "her secret" and was told not to say anything about it.

Amina now works in London as a support worker helping other women who have suffered similar ordeals.

Female circumcision is illegal in the UK. The maximum penalty for carrying it out was recently increased from five to 14 years.

"Female genital mutilation is an extremely painful and harmful practice that has no religious significance whatever," says Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland.

"Leaders of all the world's major religions have spoken out forcefully against it.

"And we as a government are committed to eradicating it, once and for all, both in this country and abroad," she says.

"It is a sad fact that older women who themselves are victims of female genital mutilation are often the strongest advocates for the continuance of the practice.

"Some attitudes are really deeply ingrained and it will take more than legislation to change those views."

Both women were speaking at the Female Genital Mutilation Conference in London, organised by the Agency for Culture and Change Management.


SEE ALSO:
Reversing female circumcision
08 Feb 03  |  Health


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