A British woman who was taken to Sierra Leone and subjected to genital cutting at 15 says she still relives the excruciating pain now she’s in her 30s – and described its impact as a ‘lifelong affliction’.
Jay Kamara-Frederick, who is from south London, said she has gone through years of counselling in a bid to work through the impact of what she was forced to endure, but still experiences flashbacks and ‘phantom feelings’ of the agonising procedure.
The marketing consultant, whose family told her she was going to Sierra Leone for a ‘coming of age’ initiation, recalled during an appearance on This Morning on Thursday how she woke three days after the procedure to see her mother pleading with her to fight for her life.
The horrifying procedure, widely referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM), refers to the forcible removable of a girl’s genitals, and can involve the hood of the clitoris being cut, removed altogether, or in extreme cases, both the clitoris and labia removed, and the resulting wound sewn together.
Jay Kamara-Frederick, was born and raised in Shepherd’s Bush, but at the age of 15 she was taken to Sierra Leone and went through genital cutting, without her consent
Jay, who was born and raised in Shepherd’s Bush, explained to presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield how she had been told by her mother that the trip to Africa was for a ‘coming of age’ initiation into womanhood to mark her 15th birthday.
She had no idea what lay in store, and said she has spent years dealing with the devastating aftermath.
‘For me personally, I think it’s more mental. I’ve had to go through hours and hours of counselling. I get flashbacks,’ Jay said.
‘I get phantom feelings, where I remember the feeling. There are times when I don’t feel anything and then it hits me all at once. It’s a life-long affliction that I have.’
Talking about making the choice to speak out against the practice, she said her mother’s support was vital: ‘It’s very challenging.
‘It’s taken me a long time to reconcile the fact about me being here… and talking to you. I said to my mum, “I have to do this”. She said, “Do what you need to do. I’m going to support you 150 per cent.”‘
Figures indicate that around 137,000 women in the UK are victims of FGM, having been taken overseas to Dubai and other countries where the procedure continues to be performed.
Jay was joined by Julia Laila-Marajh OBE founder of the anti-FGC charity the Orchid Project who are campaigning to put an end to the practice
Jay, who says she is a survivor not a victim, explained that had she was told it was going to be a ‘coming of age’ celebration
WHAT IS FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION AND IS IT ILLEGAL?
The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM, which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman’s external genitalia.
Girls aged 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, most commonly in Gambia, Mauritania and Indonesia.
The procedure is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.
Once girls have been cut, they are deemed ready for marriage and taken out of school – but FGM causes health problems and can be fatal.
FGM became illegal in Uganda in 2010 but continues in secret, according to officials and police.
It is practised by both Muslim and Christian communities and by followers of some indigenous religions. People often believe FGM is required by religion, but it is not mentioned in the Koran or Bible.
In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on eliminating FGM, but it remains legal in certain African countries including Mali and Sierra Leone.
The practice is illegal in the UK, but according to figures it’s thought around 137,000 girls from Britain are taken to countries that still perform the procedure.
Jay recalled the lead up to the trip to west Africa on the show.
‘I was told that it would be where I would join a wonderful community of powerful women. They would become leaders, who were able to work and do great things in the world, I was told I would get gifts and just be celebrated.
‘I remember saying to my mum that I am actually quite spoiled growing up here, there isn’t anything I actually need.
‘My mum said “but this is what we do, I went through it and your aunts and your cousins have all gone through it”.
‘They wouldn’t tell me what it entailed, and I know that if I would have known I would definitely have said no.’
Jay explained that she didn’t have any idea about the procedure until she was taken to a secret location. That is where her memory stops.
‘Three days later I woke to my mum staring at me telling me to fight for my life,’ she said on the show.
‘All I remember is laying down, the excruciating pain that I wouldn’t want anyone to experience and then a few days waking up with my mum looking at me, worried.’
Jay, who says she is a survivor and not a victim, is now campaigning for an end to FGM, emphasising the importance of educating and protecting girls who are at risk.
Julia Laila-Marajh OBE, the founder of the anti-FGC charity the Orchid Project, also appeared on the daytime show to explain that how important it was for a dialogue to be opened further about the devastating practice.
This Morning airs weekdays on ITV at 10.30am