Labia elongation and the experiences of Zimbabwean women in the UK

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  • 1 University of Portsmouth, , UK
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Literature attempting to understand the extent to which labia elongation (LE) affects women is virtually non-existent. Twenty qualitative interviews were conducted with Zimbabwean women in the UK seeking to understand the extent to which the practice was seen as harmful. Currently LE is not considered as harmful as types 1–3 and is therefore absent in global campaigning against FGM/C. The findings from this study strongly argue that LE is indeed a form of violence but the ways in which it causes harm are less visible than with types 1–3. The critical feminist lens applied in this article demonstrates that LE needs to be considered as linked to other forms of VAWG including IPV. It is also strongly linked to other harmful practices such as child marriage and bride-price. Ultimately, as with all forms of gendered violence, structural inequalities found the continuance of LE. Transforming patterns of abuse are made harder by the perception that LE makes a girl more beautiful to her future husband. Young women perform the practice on themselves in the belief that it will secure them a good marriage. The challenge to end the practice is therefore complex and no less urgent than other forms of FGM/C.

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