Today (Feb 6) is International day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation sometimes called female circumcision.

 In today’s world, it is easy to think Female Genital Mutilation is no longer a concern, or that it is a thing of the past, but the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 200 million women alive today have been subjected to FGM, and every year, 3 million girls globally are at risk of undergoing FGM.

What exactly is female genital mutilation?

Female genital mutilation is the cutting of part or all of the external female genitalia (including any form of injury) for non medical reasons.

There are different types of female genital mutilation and these types range from the removal of the clitoris (or clitoral hood), to removal of the entire external female genitalia including the labia majora and labia minora. Sometimes the vagina opening is also narrowed (stitched shut) a process known as infibulation leaving just enough opening for passage of menstrual blood.

Image showing some of the types of FGM

It is important to state here that there are absolutely no health benefits to Female Genital Mutilation! None!

Instead it causes both physical and psychological harm to its victims.

Some of the physical complications of FGM include:

  • Pain from the procedure itself as a lot of girls are circumcised without anesthesia
  • Bleeding, which can sometimes lead to shock and death
  • Infections like HIV, Hep C
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Infertility
  • Risk of complications with labor and childbirth including prolonged labor, post partum hemorrhage and even neonatal death

FGM also causes psychological harm including, but not limited to :

  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Somatization

Some of the many excuses given for the continuous practice of FGM include:

  • Rite of passage for womanhood
  • Cleanliness and aesthetic perceptions of how a women’s genitalia should look
  • Prevents promiscuity
  • Preserves virginity
  • Ensures marriageability
  • Religious misconceptions
  • Improves male sexual pleasure and virility

These excuses are all based on gender notions of inequality, and suppression of female sexuality.

Female Genital mutilation is a form of gender based violence and culture is not an excuse for the practice of this barbaric act.

In so many parts of the world today, Female Genital Mutilation is still legal. In some places, it has even been medicalized and FGM is done in hospitals by medical professionals!

This year, to mark the International day of zero tolerance for FGM, UNICEF released a statement warning that an additional 2 million girls may be victims over the next decade due to the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic (read the full release HERE). That’s an extra 2 million girls asides from the previous estimations!

Action needs to be taken to end this menace. Intentional action to save millions of girls from lifetimes of dealing with the harmful effects of FGM.

So today, I’m choosing to write about this to raise awareness on this issue.
To let people know that girls are still being mutilated in several parts of the world.
To let people know that FGM has serious health complications and zero health benefits.

I hope you join in raising awareness and in calling on all stakeholders, policy makers, gender advocates and government officials and representatives to take deliberate action to end this evil act!


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