It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women are survivors of FGM practice, a practice happening in more than 30 countries around the world. It is said to be one of the biggest violations of human rights regarding gender equality and discrimination against Women.
What is FGM?
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Female Genital Mutilation comprises all procedures involving the removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
FGM is based on the community’s cultural beliefs and social norms and is known by different terms such as halalays, tahur, megrez, sunna, gudniin, and khitan. In simple terms, FGM often known as Female circumcision is performed by traditional practitioners under unsanitary conditions.
Girls between the age of 1 to 15 years are subjected to go under FGM, most commonly before puberty. These girls go through serious health implications that can be subject to long-term problems related to sex, childbirth, and mental health. Often adult women and married women are subjected to undergoing FGM.
FGM practice is taking place in the north-eastern, western, and eastern regions of the African continent, also some parts of the middle east and Asia. However, the FGM practice is now taking place in different regions, including North America, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand due to immigrants continuing to persist in these countries.
Types of FGM
FGM is performed by traditional practitioners having no medical training. However, in some countries, it’s performed by medical experts. FGM is carried out without using any anesthetics and antiseptics under inhuman conditions. It’s performed using blades, scissors, knives, scalpels, and even pieces of glass. It is happening against the will and consent of girls, thereby forcibly restraining girls.
There are 4 types of FGM practice:
Type 1: It is also known as clitoridectomy where the clitoris is partially or completely removed. The clitoris is the most sensitive organ known as the pleasure center that produces sexual excitement, clitoral erection, and orgasm.
Type 2: It is also known as excision; it involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora (the lips that surround the vagina) with or without excision of the labia majora (the larger outer lips).
Type 3: Also known as infibulation or pharaonic type, this procedure involves narrowing the vaginal opening and covering the seal is created. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora or labia majora through stitching or holding the cut areas together for a certain period to create a covering seal. Only a small opening is left for the passing of urine and menstrual blood.
Type 4: This type includes all other harmful non-medical procedures to the female genitalia that practice includes pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area. In some cases, even introduces corrosive and harsh substances into the vagina.
Consequences and Health risk of FGM
Once the vaginal opening has been narrowed, it will need to be reopened before marriage to enable to have sexual intercourse and for purpose of childbirth. In some cultures, the opening and narrowing of the vagina are done several times throughout the female life. This could lead to some serious health consequences during or soon after the FGM procedure is carried out. FGM result in lifelong health problems causing psychological trauma, shock, and even death. The practice of FGM is usually carried out to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity. A girl’s ritual into womanhood and marriage.
These short-term and long-term health complications can include:
- Severe pain and excessive bleeding
- Difficulty passing menstrual blood and urine
- Urinary tract infections, chronic pelvic infections, forming of cysts, and infertility
- Psychological problems and mental health
- Less or no sexual pleasure
- Complications during childbirth
- Higher risk of new-born deaths
However, there are no claimed health benefits from this procedure and these girls face severe health complications. At least 1 girl in 4 dies due to the complexity of the operation and unsanitary condition with no proper medical assistance. The event of FMG performed on girls is quite traumatic leading to hemorrhagic and neurogenic shock. The amount of pain and torcher they suffer when these girls are held down during the procedure. The memories of this inhumane pain still haunt women throughout their life.
Reasons to undergo FGM rituals
FGM practice is happening based on various cultural, religious, and social reasons, passing down as rituals within family and community. Different communities and cultures have been practicing FGM for generations to get social acceptability. The reasons behind FGM may include:
- To ensure that girl remains a virgin for marriage
- It controls the urge of female sexuality
- Some communities believe the uncut clitoris is unclean and therefore considered unhygienic
- FGM is considered to be accepted as “clean” and ready for marriage
- Some believe as a part of a ritual to honor the family and social acceptability
- A belief that FGM increases the sexual pleasure of Man.
- Receiving higher dowries on girls as they are considered more chaste
- Some perform a religious duty to perform FGM.
However, there is no proper medical reason behind performing FGM on girls. There are no acceptable reasons to justify the harmful practice. It’s a clear violation of human rights and medical ethics. The families where FGM rituals are practiced, feel pressure from the community to have their daughter undergo FGM, to be accepted by the community. These girls are taken to local practitioners without their consent and are unaware of the reason to travel. Powerful and authorized people such as the Local chief of the community, religious leaders, and local practitioners who have a huge influence over the community continue to instigate FGM.
End Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) #ENDFGM
FGM is a practice that has been around for more than thousands of years and therefore it’s a huge task to end Female Genital Mutilation. Large global programs and organizations are working together with United Nations to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation by educating and empowering girls and their communities.
These global programs encourage individuals from the community to become trainers and educators. These programs take the help of respected local women to teach and educate other girls and women in their community about the harmful effects of FGM. The initiative can also include songs, games, and drama theatres to bring awareness about FGM.
United Nations adopted a resolution banning FGM worldwide in 2012. It involves the necessary procedure including enacting and enforcing legislation to ban FGM practice. The initiative to protect and secure women’s rights and save them from the horrors of FGM.
The European parliament has strongly committed to helping and eliminating the FGM practice. Also, implement strong laws and regulations to eradicate female genital mutilation. FGM is illegal in the UK and it’s a strong offense when performing or practicing FGM in or outside the UK. The person found guilty may charge with up to 14 years in prison.
However, the initiative drives to ban FGM has not significantly reduced the practice. Most of those 30 countries where FGM is being performed have legislated against it. However, under social norms, the FGM continues to persist under secrecy.
A Story of FGM Survivor
Durrat is a social activist in her community and speaks openly to end FGM practice. Durrat who is herself an FGM survivor shares the horror of her story.
When I was 8 years old, I was playing with local children outside our house premises. That’s when my family tricked me into taking me to my aunt’s house for snacks. On reaching Aunt’s house, there was a white curtain dividing the room and I was immediately held down and forcibly sit on the ground. Before I could understand anything, I was blindfolded and my hands were tied together up. There was loud drumming and older women of the community were singing folk songs that I was too young to understand. I could hear the scream and cries of other kids from behind those white curtains.
I could hear to bring the next girl up and it was my turn. They took my blindfold off and pushed me to go behind the curtains. To my shock, I saw other girls bleeding and crying in pain. I was scared and before I could do something to escape three older women held my hands and legs while one woman sat on my chest to cover my mouth from screaming. I still remember each and everything of that day as for them I was not human, they treated me worse than cattle. The cutting happens very fast and I could feel the sharp pain and stitching of the vagina with no proper sanitation.
I was left bleeding as they made me sit on a hole filled with herbs. They took dried leaves and placed them on our wounds for 2 to 3 days to dry. When I confronted my mother about this, I was told we bring honor to the family when we are cut and therefore, I had to undergo FGM. That day still haunts me like a nightmare and my wounds are still fresh and unhealed.
Since then, I decided to end this practice and stop other girls to go through gruesome procedures. Young girls should be empowered to bring change to their communities. Once girls understand what’s happening in the name of culture is wrong, they can fight and rescue others. I want to be the voice of all those girls who have gone under FGM and I will continue to fight back until it ends.