Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the practice of intentionally altering or injuring the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure is most common in several regions of Africa and in some countries in the Middle East and Asia. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, with 92 million in Africa alone. In most societies that perform FGM it is considered a cultural tradition, which leads many people to try to use cultural relativism to excuse the practice. Many claim that it is a religious practice, however no known religious scripts endorse FGM. Rather, it is a social convention deeply rooted in gender inequality.
There are three main types of FGM:
1. Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris and sometimes the prepuce.
2. Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora and sometimes majora.
3. Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening by cutting, repositioning and sewing together the labia, leaving only a small opening for urine and menstrual blood to pass through.
FGM is typically performed on girls between infancy and age 15, usually in environments and with instruments that are not sterile. Women are usually held down and forced to cooperate, and often must have their legs bound together following the procedure during healing. The procedure is excruciatingly painful and can result in severe bleeding and shock (which can cause death), difficulty urinating, recurring bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, open sores, infertility, psychological problems including post traumatic stress disorder, and bacterial infections (which can also cause death). FGM also makes childbirth extremely difficult and raises the risk of infant mortality. Women who have undergone infibulation must also undergo further procedures once they marry and when giving birth. In order to have intercourse or birth a child the vaginal opening must be slit open and then stitched back up every time.
FGM is based in the assumption that women are inferior to men and thus should be kept under control and that they are naturally untrustworthy and promiscuous. FGM alters the natural and healthy state of a woman’s body and changes it into something that she has no control over. The procedure changes her own body into a source of constant pain and discomfort, that may at some point kill her. It is meant to prevent a woman from ever experiencing sexual pleasure, thus stopping her from having premarital or extramarital sex. Women’s bodies are considered “clean” and “beatiful” only after the “unclean” parts have been removed, rendering a woman only an object for men to enjoy. The World Health Organization, The United Nations, and countless other organizations all oppose FGM as a violation of basic human rights and view it as a form of torture. Furthermore, many survivors of FGM have been extremely vocal in their opposition to the practice and their hope that it will stop.
For more information visit the WHO’s page on FGM:
Posted by: Amber