Over 38,000 Girls and Women in Sweden Are Genitally Mutilated - Survey

There are at least 38,000 genitally-mutilated girls and women living in Sweden, the National Board of Health and Welfare has estimated, sounding the alarm over the dangerous lack of knowledge within the healthcare sector about this issue, unknown in the Nordic country barely decades ago.

Because it is girls between the ages of 4 and 14 who are exposed to genital mutilation, the National Board of Health and Welfare stressed the importance of preventive work at the pre-school and school level. However, barely 28 percent of school nurses and 45 percent of youth clinics work preventively against female genital mutilation.

In the survey, the excruciatingly painful and previously unfamiliar process in Scandinavia was called a lifelong trauma and a disaster, whose consequences may include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

"As part of the survey, we interviewed, among others, cultural doulas, that is women who have experience of childbirth and are trained in providing support and information. They testified that it is a lifelong trauma, a disaster to be mutilated. The consequences of genital mutilation may include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and low self-esteem. There is a lot of taboo and shame around the issue, which means that they rarely talk about their problems," investigator Sharareh Akhavan said in a press release.

Furthermore, of the estimated 38,000 girls and women exposed to female genital mutilation in Sweden, only around 5,000 have ever sought care. Most often it has occurred in connection with pregnancy, according to the survey.

Yet, even many healthcare professionals lack knowledge in the area, according to a survey conducted by the National Board of Health and Welfare among health centres, youth clinics, gynaecological clinics, maternal healthcare, and school nurses.

For instance, 49 percent of the heads of operations at health centres stated that the staff at their reception did not have any training on genital mutilation and 55 percent said that none of the staff had attended online tutorials about FGM. Among school nurses, more than half, 52 percent, admitted a lack of education about this topic.

"Both preventive and knowledge-raising efforts are needed," Sharareh Akhavan summarised. "The National Board of Health and Welfare has long been providing support material, but it is still very difficult to reach out", she said, emphasising the importance of having systems in place for referrals and follow-ups.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an excruciatingly painful procedure mostly associated with the Islamic world, including parts of the Maghreb, Sub-Saharan Africa, and swaths of the Middle East. The highest incidence of FGM internationally is Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Gambia.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, there are over 200 million FGM survivors today. The incidence of FGM in Sweden has increased in lockstep with mass immigration from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

You can read this article as it originally appears at Sputnik here.

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This article originally appeared at Sputnik.