Permit me to define mutilation according to the Merriam Webster dictionary as ‘to cause severe damage to the body’. Now, that was just to make us understand the gravity of what we’re discussing today. World Health Organisation defines FGM as all procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, injury to the female genital organ whether for cultural or any other therapeutic reason. It is inhuman, brutal and it had to end. It is a violation of fundamental human rights deeply rooted in traditional beliefs with no plan towards change. It also reflects deep-rooted inequalities between the sexes and is an extreme form of discrimination against women.
My Grandma used to tell me lots of beautiful stories but no story was as ugly as her story of how she was “circumcised” when she was very young. According to her, it was conducted in batches and they lodged them in the place for days after it had been conducted in the hope that they heal faster. Very sharp objects were used, leaving so much pain that lingered for weeks, sometimes months before they healed. She happened to be one of the lucky ones that got over it. However, she said the effects were as extreme as people dying from complications.
So, this brings us to the question, why?? Why is this still being practiced in some places today?? The origin of FGM is embedded in secrecy, uncertainty and confusion. Also, there have been lots of controversies to justify reasons why it is being practiced. Some do it as an initiation of young girls into womanhood, some do it to ensure virginity, some do it curb promiscuity, some do it to protect female modesty and chastity, for modification of sociosexual attitudes(countering the failure of a woman to attain orgasm), increasing sexual pleasure of the husband and increasing fertility. Nonsense right??? All these are not enough reasons to justify such cruelty.
According to WHO, More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated .
There are types of Female Genital Mutilation, each with different levels of severity. Let’s look at them
CLITORIDECTOMY: this is the least severe type involving the removal of the prepuce or the hood of the clitoris or all parts of the clitoris.
SUNNA: this is a more severe type involving the removal of the clitoris and the partial or total excision of the labia minora.
INFIBULATION: this is the most severe type. It involves the removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and adjacent medial part of the labia majora and the stitching of the vaginal orifice, leaving an opening of the size of a pin head to allow for menstrual flow or urine.
Other unclassified types that are being practised include introcision, gishiri cuts, pricking, piercing, or incision of the clitoris and/or labia, scraping and/or cutting of the vagina (angrya cuts), stretching the clitoris and/or labia, cauterization, the introduction of corrosive substances and herbs in the vagina, and other forms.
Health consequences of FGM can be grouped broadly into two; the immediate consequences and the long term consequences. The immediate Consequences are:
Immediate Consequences can include: severe pain, excessive bleeding (haemorrhage), genital tissue swelling, fever, infections e.g., tetanus from sharp objects used, urinary problems, wound healing problems, injury to surrounding genital tissue, shock and death.
Long term Consequences may include: urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections); vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections); menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.); scar tissue and keloid; sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.); increased risk of childbirth complications (difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, caesarean section, need to resuscitate the baby, etc.) and newborn deaths.
What about the psychological and mental consequences. It is very serious because most girls do not speak up so that they can be helped. They prefer bottling it up, allowing fear creep in which later on makes them withdrawn and eventually affects their interaction and relationships. FGM causes depression, anxiety, low self esteem, post traumatic stress order, etc.
WAY FORWARD ➡️➡️
In Africa today, FGM is being tackled by organisations like World Health Organisation(WHO), United Nations International Children Emergency Fund(UNICEF), Economic Commission For Africa (ECA) among many other women organisations across the globe. The aim has been to intensify the education of the general public on the dangers of FGM and also the enactment and enforcement of legislations against the perpetrators.
HOW CAN YOU AND I BE INVOLVED?
One Voice Initiative For Women and Children Emancipation is one out of the women organisations preaching against FGM by making you aware. However, it’s more than being aware, actions must be taken.
Say NO today and save the future generations of women.
Enquire about it’s practice in your locality and educate people on its dangers.
Work with organisations and institutions like OVIWCE to stop the practice in your locality
Discuss with law makers or local representatives to make laws against FGM
It’s okay to be emotional and feel pity for victims but it’s more important to take actions to stop it.
We are One Voice and we say “NO” to FGM.