6th of February is International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, a day set aside to advocate for the elimination of female genital mutilation.
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
FGM also known as female circumcision involves partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is practiced in some countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East by traditional practitioners (Circumcisers). Common reasons for FGM cited by women are social acceptance, religion, hygiene, preservation of virginity, and marriageability. In most cultures, it is usually initiated and carried out by women, who see it as a “source of honour” and to maintain chastity among young girls. In some communities, it is more of a “social obligation” as girls that refuse to be ‘cut’ may be exposed to social exclusion.
There are no known health benefits of FGM. Rather adverse health effects include vaginal infections, difficulty urinating, painful menstruations due to obstruction of menstrual flow, fatal bleeding, complications in childbirth.
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects gender inequality and is an extreme form of discrimination against girls and women. It is most times carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.
There are 4 types:
Type I is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans (the external and visible part of the clitoris and/or the prepuce/clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoral glans). Type Ia involves removal of the clitoral hood only. The more common procedure is Type Ib (clitoridectomy), the complete or partial removal of the clitoral glans and clitoral hood. The circumciser pulls the clitoral glans with her thumb and index finger and cuts it off.
Type II (excision) is the complete or partial removal of the inner labia, with or without removal of the clitoral glans and outer labia. Type IIa is removal of the inner labia; Type IIb, removal of the clitoral glans and inner labia; and Type IIc, removal of the clitoral glans, inner and outer labia.
Type III (infibulation) is the removal of the external genitalia and fusion of the wound. The inner and/or outer labia are cut away, with or without removal of the clitoral glans. Type III is practised largely in northeast Africa.
Type IV includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
FGM is closer to us than we think.
More than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is practiced. (Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern UNICEF, New York, 2016.). The global target is to have zero cases by 2030. This is only achievable by joint efforts to raise awareness on dangers of FGM, punishment for persons that engage in the act (as adopted by some countries), promoting education and empowerment for women. Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have posed a significant challenge. Girls at a higher risk of FGM due to school closures, lockdowns and the overall disruption of protection and response systems. Many traditional cutters badly in need of an income during the economic downturn approach families directly in search of work to survive.
Empowered girls can become agents of change for themselves, their families and their communities.
Dr Jane is advocating for total elimination of FGM, and supporting women-focused organizations to do so. We are committed to providing essential support for survivors of FGM and raising the voices of adolescent girls and young women to end FGM completely
Female genital mutilation (who.int)– WHO Factsheets