Female Genital Mutilation

June 27, 2010

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Female Genital Mutilation (fgm) is a cultural procedure that has been carried out since ancient times throughout the world, mainly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It consists of girls and young women having parts of their vagina either partially or completely cut off by blunt, unsterilized blades and other unsanitary instruments. Female genital mutilation affects 5 girls every minute worldwide. According to the Word Health Organization (WHO), 85 million to 115 million females in the world have undergone some form of Female Genital Mutilation and suffer from its adverse health effects. It is estimated that 2 million young girls undergo the procedure every year.

Female Genital Mutilation is embedded in local beliefs, values and behavioral patterns that vary from tribe to tribe but can broadly be categorized into the following: 1, Primarily Female Genital Mutilation is performed to ‘control’ women’s sexuality; overwhelmingly societies in which Female Genital Mutilation is practiced, believe that women in essence are sexually insatiable creatures that need to be ‘controlled’ to ensure monogamy (it is a common fact that a leading factor of violence against women is male insecurity issues taken out on them). Because Female Genital Mutilation in its most severe form includes the narrowing of the vagina opening, men even go as far as believing that their sexual pleasure will thereby be increased! 2, Based extensively on mythical reasons, Female Genital Mutilation is seen as part of a girl becoming a woman. Examples of such determinant myths are the danger of the clitoris growing to the size of a penis, Female Genital Mutilation enhancing female fertility and promoting child survival after birth (conclusive studies have proven the exact opposite!). 3, A normal vagina looking ‘ugly’ to men and therefore mutilate, with the resulting image being more ‘appealing’ already! 4, Female Genital Mutilation is carried out on supposed religious pretexts such as the ‘Sunna’ prescript in the Holy Qu’uran as neither Islam nor Christianity sanction the practice. 5, In furtherance of the first category, Female Genital Mutilation is a prerequisite for marriage. Regarding women by and large being economically dependent on men in many parts of the impoverished world, men who out of their own inferiority demand absolute loyalty from their (potential) spouses, place a high importance on the procedure, thereby compelling many females to undergo Female Genital Mutilation in the first place.

Female Genital Mutilation bears no health benefits whatsoever. Instead, it reduces the quality of life, sexual function and overall well-being of the patients who have had it performed on and additionally causes permanent trauma. A WHO published study of 2006 directly relates Female Genital Mutilation to the health implications on its victims and their babies, thereby clearly confirming its associated lethality. Women who have had fgm are significantly more likely to experience difficulties during labor and their babies are more likely to die as a result of the practice, as serious complications during childbirth include the need to have a cesarean section, dangerously heavy bleeding after the birth of the baby and prolonged hospitalization following the birth. The study was said to have also found that there was an increased need to resuscitate babies whose mother had Female Genital Mutilation performed on. It additionally showed the death rate among babies during and immediately after birth being much higher for those born to mothers victimized by Female Genital Mutilation. Furthermore, it estimated that in the African context and additional 10 to 20 babies die per 1000 deliveries as a result of the practice.

Female Genital Mutilation as a practice is categorized as: Type I being excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of the part of the clitoris; Type II involving the excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora and Type III (also known infibulation) excising part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening.

Burkina Faso, according to the U.S. State Department has a prevalence rate of 71.6% with Type II being the most common form practiced. Whereas 66.35% of girls underwent the procedure in 1996, the prevalence rate amongst them has significantly dropped to 25% in 2005, mainly due to the extensive public sensitization campaigns run by government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the fight against female genital mutilation. While burkinabes have gradually come to realize the hazardous impact of Female Genital Mutilation, the situation remains serious with the cross border migration of groups of people from countries where the practice is still a norm. These immigrants have not been exposed to the anti-fgm campaigns as much as native burkinabes and as such widely see no wrong in their doings. With more excisors giving up their trade and being re-trained alongside help from the government and NGOs, these new groups of people increasingly resort to performing the operation in ‘underground’ urban clinics (run by medical personnel making a lot of money from it) or rural hideouts where the likes of native doctors still conduct the practice. They also choose to have their daughters excised soon after birth to avoid being caught by the authorities and also in order not to let the girls remember the experience and pain when they grow up.

Such females thus have their lives endangered and ruined needlessly, and being blatant examples of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. ‘Mother Nature – Burkina Faso’ is a visual address of the very specific issue of the resurgence of Female Genital Mutilation in Burkina Faso through increased cross border migrations.

11 Responses to “Female Genital Mutilation”

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