FACTS ABOUT FGM
For centuries, African women and girls have been
victims of violence of all kinds within their families
and communities. Despite the existence of
international conventions and national laws to
protect women and girls, the harmful practices of
female genital mutilation, rape, incest, forced
and/or early marriage, degrading widow rights,
refusal of schooling for girls or training for women
are still a reality. By disavowing these rights it
prohibits their ability to have fulfilling lives.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a harmful
traditional practice involving the cutting or
removal of the external female genitalia. It has
existed for more than 2,000 years and is performed
on girls from birth, up to just before marriage, and sometimes beyond. FGM is also known as "female circumcision" or "cutting."
FGM is a harmful and dangerous practice that involves the outer parts of the vagina -including the labia and the clitoris- being partially or totally removed. The World Health Organization ("WHO") identifies four main types of FGM; however, in the case of type 3, which can be the most detrimental to a victim’s reproductive health, the vagina is sewn up, leaving only a small hole for urinating, menstruation and sexual intercourse. FGM is predominantly carried out in parts of Africa.
FGM is often carried out without aesthetic on girls between the ages of 3 and 14. The implements used can be razor blades, razors, scissors or knives. Besides the extreme pain, the psychological and physical effects are devastating and can often be life threatening. FGM has been recognized as a practice that is born from societies with both gender imbalances and other forms of violence against women.
It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. Furthermore, there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years old. FGM has been documented in at least 30 countries, mainly in Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Asia. It is also prevalent in diaspora communities around the world.
There are no health benefits to FGM and it causes much harm. Some of the health problems caused include (i) severe loss of blood, pain or shock, (ii) difficulties in urinating or menstruating, (iii) increased risk of bladder infection and HIV, (iv) psychological problems, (v) issues with sexuality and pain during sex, (vi) complications, and sometimes death, in pregnancy and childbirth, and (vii) incontinence due to tears in bladder or rectum (fistula).
Why and where does it happen?
FGM is an ancient traditional practice which has been taking place for over 2,000 years and whilst it is not known exactly where and why it first happened it is thought to originate from Sudan/Egypt. It is often mistakenly thought that FGM is performed for religious reasons but it pre-dates the major faiths and is not required by any religion. The reasons why FGM continues today are complex and reflect both the history and current circumstances of the communities in which it takes place. Reasons given for practicing FGM include:
· family expectations and to maintain family honor
· tradition and/or religious values
· preservation of virginity and chastity
· community/social acceptance
· preparation of girls for womanhood and to enable them to have a good marriage.