A CHARITY fighting to save girls from mutilation in Africa, is combatting what it says are unrealistic depictions of female bodies at home.

Anti-female genital mutilation (FMG) group, Oxford Against Cutting (OAC) is holding a workshop for young women to address the increasing social pressures put on young people to look a certain way, including altering their genitalia.

It wants to show young people that social media, pornography and other influencing factors are often untrue representations of reality.

The charity believes ideas around ‘normal’ genitalia have changed significantly in recent years due to the increase in accessibility to pornography and the growth of cosmetic genital surgery.

The charity’s patron, consultant obstetrician and founder of the Oxford Rose Clinic for FGM survivors, Dr Brenda Kelly, brought together a group of women’s health experts and OAC to consider the diversity of female genital anatomy.

She said: “The reality is that there is a wide spectrum of normal variation in the size, shape and colour of female genitalia.

“Lifting the taboo around female genitalia and genital modification practices and opening up discussion around the spectrum of normality and autonomy, is as relevant to those growing up in Western culture as it is to those who come from cultures where FGM is prevalent.”

OAC has designed a body image workshop as part of a project funded by the National Lottery – for students to think about where the societal pressures are coming from, and look at how the cultural reasons for carrying out FGM are similar to the cultural pressures that lead to female cosmetic genital surgery.

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The workshop highlights the natural diversity of female genitalia and aims to increase students’ overall body confidence as well as raising awareness of harmful cultural practices that change genitalia.

Eighty posters have been put up in bus shelters around Oxford during May and June as part of the project which is led by Dr Nesreen Yanni, Dot Pritchard and Lena El-Hindi.

Dr Yanni said: “This project is so important because there are very few informative resources that explain the natural function and appearance of healthy female genitalia.

“Young people often look on the internet for answers to their questions about genitalia and sex and get misled by inaccurate information.”

So far, the group has held eight workshops at Abingdon and Witney College campuses for social care and hair and beauty students.

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She added: “Our workshops help young people understand that cosmetic surgery like labiaplasty is a harmful cultural practice, in some ways like FGM – it is often done because there is social pressure for female genitalia to appear a certain way and for male pleasure.

“I’m not aware of any other workshops that include learning on FGM, female cosmetic genital surgery and body image and I’m proud to be a part of this pioneering project.”

To arrange a school or college workshop for year 8 students or older, email info@oxfordagainstcutting.org.