Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a cultural practice that is said to have begun in Africa about 2000 years ago, however it is now practiced in the Middle East, and parts of Asia.
Today it is also performed by immigrants in North America and Europe who originally descend from countries where FGM is ordinary.
Female Genital Mutilation or female circumcision is the term used for the removal of all or a section of the external parts of the female genitalia.
Up to today many cultures still practice it and believed that a girl cannot become a woman unless she undergoes FGM. This process is used to initiate girls into womanhood and a girl will not be allowed to be married unless she has undergone the procedure.
This practice has been around for so long that it has become a significant aspect of cultures that practice it. To eradicate this FGM, means to alter the cultural superstitions and mindsets that have kept the practice alive.
The thought of the FGM procedure gives me goose bumps and I can’t help but cringe at the thought- I even cringe as I write! It surely isn’t for the faint hearted. I would love to say that I won’t mention any gory details, however the whole procedure is gory- so brace yourselves.
In majority of cases, the FGM procedure is first preformed when a girl is between four and eight years old. In some cases it is done just after birth or during the first pregnancy.
FGM is mainly performed by traditional female circumcisers who are not medically trained. Typically the girl is held down in place by older women, the tools used can include a broken glass, scissors, razor blades a tin lid, knives, or any other sharp object.
These items are usually not sterilized before or after usage. Once the procedure is complete, the child is stitched up and her legs are bound for up to 40 days. Imagine this process without the use of anesthesia- OUCH.
It comes as no surprise that this procedure can cause various side effects including death. Some are; severe infections, HIV, profuse bleeding, kidney stones sexual dysfunction, depression, urinary tract infections, gynecological and obstetric problems and so on.
FGM societies have various reasons and justifications to why this procedure must be implemented. Most, if not all of these reasons appear illogic and seem to be bound by superstitions.
Take for example, there is a belief that if FGM is not performed on a woman and she gives birth, her breast milk will be poisonous, thus leading to her baby’s death! Others believe that FGM prevents cervical cancer and infertility. It is also said that the procedure can make a woman’s face more beautiful.
2000 years is a long time to practice a tradition- that dates back to around the birth of Christ! Each year, two million girls run the risk of undergoing FGM.
It is true that the removal of these practices would lead to the ruin of FGM based cultures, however this is a tradition which should be stopped because it entails harmful traditions and practices that affect the health of women and children.
This practice will continue to exist unless the cultural belief that puts forward the notion that a girl will not become a woman without this procedure is completely deleted.
Today FGM is recognized internationally and is considered a violation of human rights; there are uprising efforts by several governments and organizations which include WHO and Amnesty International to bring this practice to a halt.