As a woman, the thought of having to be subjected to some cutting or pricking of your genital while alive and conscious can send shivers down the spine. Those who have gone through such horrendous pain are superheroes by every standard. Words are not enough to describe their ordeal and the trauma it brought to them, especially when it was done against their voluntary will and for no medical reason.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) includes all the procedures undertaken to remove, either partially or totally, the external female genital or, bringing injury to the female genital organ. It is without any health benefit or medical reason, unlike male circumcision which provides lots of health benefits. Usually, it is carried out by traditional circumcisers recognized in the communities they belong to. These circumcisers are often birth attendants. Consequently, the World Health Organisation has issued a warning to qualified health professionals never to carry out FGM on their female patients.
According to the WHO, there are more than 200 million girls and women who have gone through FGM and survived. Many were mutilated at infancy; others had the ugly experience at age 15. It is globally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia intensely practice FGM. In 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published their first report on the number of women and girls at risk of being genitally cut or mutilated in the United States. The number was estimated at 48,000, many of who were below 18 years of age. The Population Reference Bureau reported that in 2013, approximately 507, 000 females in the US had undergone FGM. This value is ten times more than the 1997 estimate.
The upsurge in the number is a reflection on the increase in the number of foreigners in the country, especially from countries and regions where the practice is the order of the day. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Somalia alone accounted for 55% of the 2013 estimate. People from those countries constitute a huge chunk of the number of immigrants in the US. Seven states: California, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington house three-fifths of the 507,000 survivors or at-risk females.
It is predicted that the number of women at risk of FGM in the United States will increase in the future, with an increasing number of African immigrants in the pouring into the country, even though FGM is a crime that can be prosecuted in court in the United States since 1996.
As part of its efforts to put a stop to FGM, the United Nations sponsored the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation which holds yearly every February 6 since 2003.
Procedures in Female Genital Mutilation
There are 4 classifications of FGM by the WHO. These are:
- Type 1. Removal of the genital covering and part of or all the clitoris
- Type 2. Removal of the covering and clitoris together with the partial or total removal of the labia minora
- Type 3. Infibulation. Removal of part or all of the external genital and stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening
- Type 4. Pricking, piercing, incision, stretching, or other injuries to the clitoris or labia
Health risks of Female Genital Mutilation
- hemorrhage (excessive bleeding),
- impaired wound healing,
- problems with urination,
- infections from using contaminated instruments, and during healing,
- untold pain,
- menstrual problems,
- childbearing problems, and
- risks of stillbirth
Female Genital Mutilation and Risks of Contracting STDs
Unlike male circumcision, female genital mutilation does not prevent STDs. Instead, it makes a woman vulnerable to STDs. It is believed that FGM contributes to pelvic infection due to forceful penetration and difficulty in having sexual intercourse.
It has also been linked to the transmission of HIV; one of the ways a genitally mutilated or cut woman can contract HIV is through a blood transfusion as a result of excessive bleeding during mutilation or childbirth. In a bid to stop bleeding and hemorrhagic shock urgently, a poorly screened blood infected with HIV can be transfused into a female undergoing the FGM procedure or who is undergoing a difficult birthing as a result of a narrowed birth canal from FGM.
Another way to contract HIV is by being cut with the same sharp, blood-drawing instrument used in other victims. A woman who has undergone female genital mutilation is said to be marriageable and can be married off to older, rich men who could be positive with certain sexually transmitted diseases.
Ulceration of the genital during sex opens a woman to sexually transmitted diseases. Among couples who are having difficulties with vaginal intercourse from infibulation, anal intercourse becomes an alternative. Anal intercourse increases a person’s risk of getting STDs.
Female Genital Mutilation is to be frowned upon. It has broken many women physically, psychologically, and has ruined their sexual health. Report any attempt on FGM on a female near you. It is a violation of her human right!