Need To Take Action Against Female Genital Mutilation

female genital mutilation

Superstitions have long been prevalent in our world. Crossing the conformist prejudices of our society, we have gotten past many such rules which have no meaning. But still some remain which are eating away at our well-being, peace and existence. Many societies in our world are still shackled within some very fatal practices bearing severe consequences. Among them, one particular practice stands out the most and that is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

FGM is heinous crime in the façade of proper social conduct which affect a large population of girls. It is a  traditional custom practiced by many religious sects of the world where girls are forced to have their sexual organs mutilated or circumcised for various reasons. The female genitalia are partially or totally removed.

The process is carried in four ways:

Type I – Clitoridectomy

Here the clitoris is partially or totally removed with or without surgery. Clitoris is a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals which is brutally sliced off to complete the procedure.

Type II – Excision

Here the clitoris and the labia minora are partially or totally removed. Labia minora are the inner lips of the vagina whereas the outer lips or labia majora is kept intact. In some cases even the labia majora is removed.

Type III – Infibulation

In this method, the vaginal opening is narrowed by creating a covering seal. The inner and outer folds of the vagina are cut and repositioned without removing the clitoris.

Type IV –Other

This includes all other harmful injuries to the vagina by way of pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

Many reasons are cited to support this inhuman practice and some of them are that it is the proper way to raise a girl and not let her libido affect her mind. Protecting premarital virginity and marital fidelity is yet another cause shown in this case, since 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.Some societies believe that girls are “impure” and are the culprits to degrading a society. So to devise a wonderful measure against this belief, they have their daughters become “pure” and “beautiful” by embracing these cruel methods. Sometimes it is done to augment the pleasure of the males while having sexual intercourse.

Most of the time this procedure is carried out by a woman with no medical training,neither any anesthetics nor antiseptic treatments are used. Imagine the horror when a girl is forcibly restrained by her own mother and aunt and made to bear the unimaginable pain. Almost anything is used ranging from knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades to brutally amputate not just a girl’s physical part but her self-respect and dignity as well.

A lot of complicated diseases follow this practice and some of them are fatal too. Immediate effects include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage (bleeding), urine retention, uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections, complications in pregnancy and childbirth, sexual dysfunction, difficulties in menstruation and psychological damages, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissues. More long term consequences is experiencing recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths and the need for later surgeries.

Why do we need later surgeries?

The reason is that, since this procedure seals or narrows the vaginal opening as per Type III, the opening needs to be cut open later to allow sexual intercourse and childbirth. Sometimes it is stitched again several times, including after childbirth.This repeated opening and closing procedures, further increases immediate and long-term risks for a woman.

Female Genital Mutilation is mostly carried out in majority of Africa, Asia and Middle East and some parts of Europe. Girls within the age of infancy to about 15 years are made to undergo this process. In India FGM is widely practiced by the Dawoodi Bohra community which is a sect of the Shia-Muslims. These people are led by the Syedna. Locally it is termed as ‘Khatna’. In India, this community is very small compared to its entire population. Here the girls are generally circumcised just after or right before they attain their puberty. The notion supporting this merciless act is to make the event of mutilation just as any normal process like menstruation. So even though the matter is terribly unjust, this act gets buried inside the girls’ mind and does not yield any kind of protest. How convenient to coat a crime with a logical perspective!

Many women believe that FGM is necessary to ensure acceptance by their community, devoid of which they might not be at par with the other girls of the society and perhaps lose a chance at a good marriage proposal! This utter compliance is due to the fact that they are unaware that FGM is illegal in many countries and practicing such an act calls upon heavy penalty.

In response to this practice, WHO together with 9 other United Nations partners, issued a new statement on the elimination of FGM in 2008. It encourages increased advocacy for the abandonment of FGM. Much evidence has been cited here from the past decade. It essentially highlights the need for increased recognition of the human rights and summarizes why FGM continues, how can we stop it, and what are its damaging effects on the health of women, girls and newborn babies.

Girls are not play things nor they are toys tailor made to suit a man’s sexual need. Please stop treating your daughters like animals. A man and a woman are two halves of the human race, neither should be demoted to being a slave to the other’s demands. It is time to put a stop to those ruthless practices in the name of rituals or culture of a country. Stand up and fight against this injustice! Stop Female Genital Mutilation!

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This blog was first published in Feb 2016