Female Circumcision in Africa: Tradition vs Violation of Rights

Female circumcision , also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is the partial or complete cut-off of the external female genitalia. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that over 200 million girls and women living today have undergone female genital mutilation. This practice is carried out on girls and young women and it causes psychological and physical trauma.The practice of female gentital mutilation has firm roots in culture, tradition, and often religious beliefs. Practitioners justify the act based on social norms, initiation rites and/or preservation of chastity and humor.

Types of FGM

It is classified into Four major types:

  • TypeI: Partial or total removal of clitoral glans (visible part of the clitoris) and/or the prepuce (fold of skin surrounding the clitoral glans).
  • Type II: Partial or total removal of the Clitoral glans and the labia minora (inner folds of the vulva), with or without the labia majora (outer folds of the vulva).
  • Type III: Infibulation: this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. This seal is created by cutting and repositioning the labia minora or majora, or stitching.
  • Type IV: Other harmful methods like pricking, piercing, incising, cauterizing, scraping the genital area.

Complications of FGM

There is no health benefit achieved from this practice. FGM is notably carried out under unhygienic conditions and without anesthesia. It causes severe pain, bleeding, swelling, and may present expulsion of body waste.

In the long term, it leads to urinary tract infections (UTI), pelvic infections, birth complications in mothers and babies.

WHO, most governments and reputable medical associations, condemn this practice along with the emerging school of thought pushing for medicalizing FGM.

Where and Why is FGM still practiced?

FGM is a global pandemic which is still practiced in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In fact, it is practiced in at least 30  countries across 3 continents. FGM continues to thrive due to various factors ranging from gender inequality, ignorance and deeply held cultural beliefs and attitudes. Statistics run by WHO, UN, UNHCR, UNESCO, UNICER etc, show that a larger population of males and females are rejecting this practice. Unfortunately, amidst this voice for change is a cultural and societal pressure to sustain the tradition. In many countries, while the pratice of FGM is illegal, it is still practiced in the shadow. Family members including mothers and fathers force the girl child or adult to undergo the procedure so as to be accepted as “clean” and ready for marriage. 

This is a diabolical act that should be abolished in its entirety as it is a form of human cruelty. The subjectification of a young child to such pain and trauma is abusive and mind wrenching. Perhaps more severe actions should be taken to end this custom. There should be improved education on the dangers of FGM. 

Written by Cinnamon Okwandu

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