Swedish hospitals are seeing an increase in girls and women with mutilated genitals (FGM) who have been looking for treatment. Stockholm's Södersjukhuset hospital alone has seen a drastic increase of 80 percent over the last two years. Since its inception in 2003, however, the increase is a mind-boggling 2,000 percent, national broadcaster SVT reported.
"At first we had 10-15 women looking for treatment. Last year, the figure was up to 280 visits", senior physician Cecilia Berger told SVT. According to her, the youngest patient was only five years old.
Södersjukhuset has one of Sweden's oldest gynaecological receptions, specialising in patients who have undergone FGM. At the so-called Amel reception ("Amel" translates as "Hope" from Arabic), patients receive guidance assistance and surgical procedures to restore their sexual organs.
Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare has estimated the number of FGM survivors living in Sweden at 40,000 girls and women (of which about 7,000 under the age of 18). The largest groups are girls and women from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt and the Gambia, which also happen to be the countries with the highest incidence of FGM seen internationally.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that up to 140 million girls and women in the entire world have been genitally mutilated, whereas the United Nations' children's fund UNICEF puts this figure at 200 million. The overwhelming majority of these are found in the Islamic world, such as parts of the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Middle East. Each year, about 3 million girls are at risk of being subjected to some kind of genital mutilation.
The National Board of Health and Welfare has singled out immigration as one of the reasons for the occurrence of FGM in Sweden.
In Sweden, FGM (formulated as "operations on female genital organs designed to mutilate them and produce permanent changes) has been banned since 1982, regardless of whether consent has been given or not.
In 2014, Sweden formed the "world's first feminist government" when a centre-left coalition between the Social Democrats and the Greens came to power. Sweden's commitment to equality is also enshrined in its "feminist" foreign policy formulated by Foreign Minister Margot Wallström.