Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation.
Action taken at international, regional and national levels over the past decade or more has begun to bear fruit. Increasing numbers of women and men from practising groups have declared support for discontinuing the practice and, in some areas, the prevalence of female genital mutilation has decreased. The reduction in prevalence is not, however, as substantial as hoped for. Therefore, it is vital that the work against female genital mutilation be intensified to more effectively counteract the underlying reasons behind continuation of the practice.
The following comprehensive contribution about FGM by group member Dr. Safa Ahmed Mohmed is a must read and share on your own timeline!
Safa is a medical doctor, gynecologist and obstetrician at the Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Gadarif, Sudan, who is working with women suffering from FGM on a daily basis.
Female genital mutilation includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, the procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
This procedure can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated. FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15, it’s a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
Female genital mutilation include all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18% of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and the trend towards medicalization is increasing.
That procedure is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types:
–Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
–Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
–Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
–Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
FGM harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue. Long-term consequences can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths and the need for later surgeries.
In Africa, more than three million girls have been estimated to be at risk for FGM annually. The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and among migrants from these areas. The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities.
Where FGM is a social convention, the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing is a strong motivation to perpetuate the practice. Its often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behavior, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. In many communities they believed to reduce a woman’s libido and therefore believed to help her resist “illicit” sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed, the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage “illicit” sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM.
FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are “clean” and “beautiful” after removal of body parts that are considered “male” or “unclean”. Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.
Religious leaders take varying positions with regard to FGM: some promote it, some consider it irrelevant to religion, and others contribute to its elimination.
Local structures of power and authority, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice. In most societies, FGM is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.
In some societies, recent adoption of the practice is linked to copying the traditions of neighbouring groups. Sometimes it has started as part of a wider religious or traditional revival movement. Sometimes, FGM is practised by new groups when they move into areas where the local population practice it.
About the (much to slow!) Progress in ELIMINATING FGM, please read this up to date statement of the UN: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw52/statements_missions/Interagency_Statement_on_Eliminating_FGM.pdf