Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a traditional procedure practised across a variety of cultures and countries in Africa and the Middle East. Slowly, thanks to anti-FGM activists and the promotion of better knowledge about the dangers of this practice, it is dying out or being banned. But what is it exactly and why is it still too common a practice?
In some cultures, FGM is often seriously considered as a necessary part of raising a young girl properly and a way of preparing her for marriage and adulthood. The practice is believed to reduce a young woman’s libido, so as to make sure she is a virgin before marriage and that she will never cheat on her husband. For the record, there is no male equivalent. Male circumcision, while some would say is a pointless religious exercise, does no harm to the male. However, FGM does. Male circumcision cuts the foreskin, FGM cuts the clitoris, which gives female pleasure— for male circumcision to be equivalent to FGM, the entire tip of the male’s penis would need to be cut off.
What does FGM entail?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are four types of FGM:
1. Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris.
2. Excision: removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (larger outer lips).
3. Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
4. Other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, including pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
Who carries it out and who is affected most?
FGM is mostly carried out by a community ‘circumciser’. Young girls between infancy and the onset of adulthood, around 15, although it is practised on adult women too. More than 125 million women across 29 African and Middle Eastern countries are thought to be currently living with the after-effects of FGM.
The WHO states that there are no health benefits to the removal of female genital parts, FGM – in fact, the damage caused interferes with the natural function of the female body. The health risk are potentially fatal and at the very least can cause pain, bleeding, infections, infertility and new-born deaths. Not to mention the severe psychological problems as a result of such a traumatic procedure.
It is a Human Rights Violation.
FGM is a gross violation of the human rights of girls and women. In fact, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution of the elimination of FGM in 2012. It is very much illegal in the UK, carrying a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
photo credit: The Guardian/Wikimedia/Voice-online