For some girls at risk of female genital mutilation, summer isn’t much of a vacation.
Rather, it can mark a time when young women living in developed nations such as the U.S. and the U.K. are taken to their native countries where FGM is practiced. There, they undergo the procedure. That’s why advocates are currently ramping up their efforts to put an end to the practice.
Forward, a UK-based nonprofit working to protect the rights of African girls, recently released “Needlepoint,” a short animated film that sums up the irreversible effects of FGM.
In the video, a girl named Maria is sewn into a picturesque scene, only to be abruptly torn from her home. Her nose is sliced off, her ear is removed and sewn shut and her lips are the last to get sealed together –- symbolizing how FGM mutilates the body and robs a girl of her voice.
FGM, which involves partial or total removal of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons, is illegal in the UK. In fact, it’s classified as an act of child abuse and carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years, according to Forward.
The numerous health risks include heavy bleeding, developing sepsis, urinary tract infections, cysts and becoming infertile, according to WHO.
Yet, an estimated 100,000 women living in the UK are living with the effects of FGM, and 60,000 are at risk, according to Forward.
Summer is often an optimal time for families in the UK to subject their daughters to FGM, according to NHS Choices. They use the vacation time to travel home to get the procedure done and “heal” when they return.
In the U.S., where FGM is on the rise, “vacation cutting” had become so prevalent that President Obama signed the Transport for Female Genital Act in 2013. That made it illegal to take a girl out of the U.S. to get subjected to FGM.
As schools come to a close and girls face higher risks of getting cut, Forward hopes that its gripping film will help bring much-needed attention and legislation to the often concealed issue.
“The aim of “Needlecraft” is to offer a more visual way to invoke passion and action,” Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of Forward, said in a statement. “We recognize that this animation is hard hitting and may engender strong emotions in some people, we did not choose this direction lightly.”