Female Genital Mutilation: it still exists and it NEEDS to stop

Female genital mutilation, or FGM, refers to the procedure that is done to “intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” (WHO). These reasons, which have absolutely no health benefits for girls and women, are usually in the name of tradition. FGM is usually carried out in young girls between infancy and age 14, and more than 200 million women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The practice of female genital mutilation is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers (usually older women), who are known to play central roles in their communities. The practice is believed to decrease a women’s libido, therefore help her resist premarital sex. Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, it is often misunderstood that FGM is holy practice. It is considered a cultural tradition, and is almost universally performed and unquestioned.

 A girl who is cut is valued over a girl who is uncut. The circumcision makes her pure and untouched, and later when she marries the stitching is ripped open to allow for intercourse. Girls are often pulled out of class and tricked into the informal surgery. Later, they are held down by their own female family members, such as mothers and grandmothers, as they are cut with single blades, or even sharp glass. As recovery, their legs are bound together and they are left immobile for days or even weeks as their scar tissue partially heals. Many of these girls drop out of school, for they have missed so much content that their family convinces them to just stay home. They begin housework alongside their older sisters, and fall into the societal norm that many women are entrenched in.

There are 4 major types of FGM:

Type 1: Usually referred to as clitoridectomy, is the total removal of the clitoris, the most sensitive part of the female genitalia.

Type 2: Referred to as excision, is the total removal of the clitoris as well as the removal of the labia minora

Type 3:  Referred to as infibulation, is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a seal. The clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora are removed, as well as partial stitching of the vaginal opening; allowing a small hole for urine and blood to pass

Type 4: Includes clitoridectomy, excision, and infibulation as well as total scraping and stitching of the vaginal opening. This usually has the most severe health effects.

FGM can involve both immediate complications, such as infection, excessive bleeding, and severe pain, as well as long-term problems, such as psychological issues and urinary complications.

 

This all sounds horrible, am I right? It almost seems medieval and primitive, yet it is STILL happening today. Fortunately, since 1997, great international efforts have been made to stop FGM. International groups such as UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, and the UN General Assembly have come together to adopt resolutions on the elimination of female genital mutilation.

This is a horrible practice that devalues a woman. It is the violation of their human rights, and advocacy needs to be raised about the issue, whether that be through talking about it or developing publications. Again, this is still happening, and it is in our hands as fellow females to help one another out.