Today is international day of the girl child. Every year, since 2012, the United Nations adopted October 11 as a day set aside to “recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face around the world.” So in commemoration of #DayoftheGirl, I will be highlighting a few harmful and sexist practices still prevalent in the world we live in today.
WARNING: Some of the images and videos are graphic
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
This is also known as female circumcision. It is the barbaric act of cutting parts or all of the female external genitalia. The United Nation estimates that about 200 million women alive have been circumcised, and more than 3 million girls are still being circumcised yearly! This act has been classified as a form of violence against women by the United nations. It has zero health benefits, and some of the harmful effects include; pain- these girls are cut while being held down without any form of anesthesia or pain control, Infection from the cut, HIV or other blood borne diseases- the blades used for cutting are sometimes not sterilized between victims, recurrent urinary tract infections, infertility, problems during delivery common among which is post partum bleeding that could lead to infant and maternal death, PTSD from the procedure, and other emotional and psychological effects.
Check out these short videos for more information on this horrific act
“Eve’s apple” on Netflix is another great documentary to check out
This is a practice where young girls at puberty have their breasts flattened using methods such as pounding, or massaging the breast with heated objects to prevent their development. According to the UN, 3.8 million teenagers girls worldwide have been affected by this horrific practice. The goal is to supposedly protect the girl from unwanted sexual advances from men, and to delay or postpone sexual maturation and onset of sexual activity. Apart from the pain and trauma this obviously leaves the girls with, these girls are also vulnerable to infections, scars and health complications including difficulties with lactation later in life.
This video sheds more light on this practice
SEX SELECTIVE ABORTION
Yes, This is a thing! It is the practice of terminating a pregnancy based on the sex of the fetus, in this case, a female fetus. In 2010 statistics revealed that about 124 million girls have been aborted by parents who didn’t want female children, and this number is expected to increase to 142 million by the end of 2020. In some cases when the gender of the child cannot be determined before birth, female infants are murdered shortly after they are born or abandoned by the roadside or in other unsafe places. This practice stems from the much bigger issue of son preference, where sons are given preferential treatment over daughters. Sex selective abortion has led to a huge gender imbalance especially in countries like China and India.
Check out this post I wrote a few years ago for more information on this practice- Are you having a boy or an abortion?
Honor killings is the pre planned and usually family initiated murder of a woman based on the perception that she has violated the honor of her family by crossing a boundary of sexual appropriateness. Accurate statistics are difficult to get because most times these murders go unreported, but the UN estimates that about 5000 women yearly are killed as a result of this. Women are murdered for being victims of sexual assault or rape (Yes, you read that right, they are murdered for being victims), wearing inappropriate clothing, infidelity, leaving their partners or refusing to be forced into marriage. Sometimes other violent acts like acid attacks, public beatings etc are done to “teach the girl/woman a lesson”. Honor killing is a form of domestic and gender based violence and it is still legal in some countries and cultures today.
“The girl in the river” is a documentary that tells the story of a woman that survived honor killing. You should check it out.
Every year, it is estimated that 12 million girls,( that’s 1 girl every 2 seconds) under the age of 18 marry against their wills. Currently there are over 650 million women and girls that married as children. This just sickens me. Young girls are forced to get married most times to older men. These girls at their tender ages have to deal with taking care of households. Most often that not, they drop out of schools. Their bodies, just getting used to the changes that comes with adolescence, now have to cater to nurturing and delivering a child. The health complications young mothers experience are numerous, and according to the World Health Organization, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for young girls aged 15-19 . Child brides are also at a greater risk of being victims of domestic violence. They are at greater risks of contracting HIV AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. And all that is besides the mental health effects this has on these young girls.
This video sheds a bit more light on this issue
The movie “Dry” by Stephanie Okereke also sheds some light on VesicoVaginaFistula (VVF), a health complication common with young mothers
Every year, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders , 80% of which are girls or women, and 50% are minors. These young girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution, pornography, live sex shows, sexual tourism, stripping etc Victims of sex trafficking are at greater risk for sexual and physical violence. They are also at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. This is besides the psychological and emotional trauma these victims face.
Oloture, a recent Nollywood movie on Netflix does a good job at portraying some of the experiences victims go through in the hands of traffickers
Why am I writing about this? I believe awareness is one of the first steps to making and creating change. Many people are ignorant of the challenges that girls face around the world. And the truth is that many of these practices are still prevalent because of the idea that girls are somehow less or not equal. There’s still a lot of intrinsic bias that leads to the propagation of many of the violent acts against girls and women. As individuals and as a society, we have to resolve to do better. To do better for our girls, to do better for our women.
What can you do to help??
Raise awareness: It is easy and it’s as simple as sharing this post, talking to someone about these issues, and doing your own personal research on these topics.
Donate: Seek out organizations and NGOs that work to end these practices and send them your donations. Your little donation could make a difference in the life of a girl.
Volunteer: Many of these organizations and NGOs regularly seek volunteers. If you have time to spare, reach out to them and volunteer your time or services.
Work on your bias: Be intentional about your thoughts, actions, choice of words, especially when it relates to gender and gender roles or expectations. Most of us were born and raised in a patriarchal society so the bias is innate. We have to consciously check ourselves and correct those thoughts and actions
Thank you for reading. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. And subscribe to this website so you can be notified of new posts??
PS: Click HERE to read my post on Medium where I talk about the role culture plays in these issues.