Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a crucial human rights concern. It is a form of violence against women and girls that continues to violate their rights and freedom.
FGM is also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting and involves partial or full cutting of a girl’s genital parts, particularly the clitoris and vulva, for non-medical reasons.
Why is FGM done?
The basis of FGM is deeply embedded in sociocultural, economic, and religious reasons. While the practice is illegal in many countries, it continues under the government radar, and in some cases, with the full knowledge of governmental agencies.
In most cases, FGM is performed as a rite of passage for girls, as they transition into womanhood. In some cultures, after the procedure is done, many girls are forcefully taken out of school and forced to marry an older man.
Many communities consider the practice as a way to maintain cleanliness and hygiene, while others see it as a method to ensure a woman is chaste and celibate until she gets married.
How common is FGM?
Female genital mutilation is common worldwide. In Africa, more than 3 million girls are at risk of being mutilated yearly, with Somaliland recording the highest rates of the practice.
Health risks of FGM
While this practice can occur to women and girls of any age, it is commonly practiced on girls in their prepubertal years. The procedure not only causes severe physical hazards, but also affects the victims psychologically and socially.
Some of the health risks of FGM include:
- Genital infections
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Difficulty urinating or menstruating
- Poor self esteem
- Social isolation
- Increased risk of substance abuse
Can FGM be stopped?
The practice of female genital mutilation is dangerous to women and to their communities. Individuals and government bodies can end this practice by:
- Speaking up against the practice: Women and men in individual or corporate capacities need to speak up against the practice for it to end. While there are laws against it, the laws have been mostly ineffective as people continue with the practice unhindered.
If more persons or groups raise awareness over the unhealthy practice, more women will be bold enough to refuse FGM and more communities will recognize the harm the practice does.
- Education of the Girl-child: In many cases of female genital mutilation, mothers force their daughters to undergo the procedure. Educating the girl-child means empowering them to recognize an unhealthy and illegal practice.
Educating the girl-child also means they are mostly to complete their education before choosing a partner to get married to, rather than be forced to marry after undergoing the procedure. This curbs the cycle of poverty, poor social outcomes, and ignorance that perpetuate the practice.
- More government involvement: Where there are no laws against FGM, governments need to pass the laws. Where there are weak laws, the government needs to improve the laws and empower relevant personnel to enforce them.
Governments can enlist primary health centers to teach about reproductive health, hygiene, and personal health. By so doing, these centers will play a crucial role in ensuring communities abandon FGM and adopt healthier lifestyles and cultures.
Female genital mutilation is an unhealthy practice. Individuals, groups, and government bodies need to work hand in hand to ensure our communities are rid of this practice.