INHUMANE ACT OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
“Female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls – fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. It’s a crime against a child, a crime against humanity. It’s abuse. It’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it.”
The most common form of human rights violation that our world experiences today is gender-based violence towards women. The cultural, spiritual, and socio-political structures of our society consider women as inefficient and incapable in decision making which is why they are conveniently being treated as the world’s most vulnerable group and considered subordinates to men. Usually, discrimination and physical or emotional abuse are some types of violence towards women, but it can take various forms as well.
Many factors have contributed to violence towards women, and out of these the customs and practices pertaining to religion in different areas of the world is a major one. Societal acceptance to male superiority and dominance also contributes to such instances of gender-based violence to a larger extent.
WHAT IS FGM/C?
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting or FGM/C is one of the many crimes being committed against young girls and women. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Female Genital Mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. It was estimated that between 100 -140 millions of women have gone through female genital mutilation which has been taking place in all parts of the world for centuries now.
WHY DO WE CALL IT FGM/C?
In communities where the practice is typical, several different words are used and these are often linked to notions of ‘purity’, ‘beauty’, ‘cleanliness’, etc. In addition, FGM/C is also known as “female circumcision” or “female genital cutting (FGC)”. In most countries, the term “excision” is used because it is a common French word, while in African Anglophone countries “circumcision” is the commonly used term.
In 1990, the term ‘female genital mutilation’ was adopted by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children. And in 1991, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the United Nations adopted it as well. However, objections have been raised because the term also expresses judgment and condemnation of what has always been a practice in many communities.
DOES FGM/C HAVE AN IMPACT ON WOMEN’S HEALTH?
FGM/C is not only a violation of Human Rights but it also adversly effects the sexual and reproductive health of women.. Of course, it “has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies”
The type of cutting and personal experiences results in varying physical and psychological health consequences. It can cause health effects such as extreme pain, severe bleeding, infection, difficulty in passing urine and menstruation, difficulty in having sex and in giving birth, infertility and even death. Moreover, FGM/C may cause lifelong psychological consequences, including depression, anxiety, fear of having sex, and can also cause a severe decrease in a woman’s sexual pleasure.
WHY IS FGM/C PRACTISED?
Many reasons have been cited by communities on why they practise FGM/C, these vary from religious beliefs, maintaining a woman’s virginity or chastity, cultural tradition, hygiene, improving female fertility, and increasing sexual pleasure for men among others. It is also considered a way to make a female “woman” by removing parts of the genitalia which resemble male parts or are considered more “male”. Through this practice, they are expected to become ‘women’ and to embrace their gender identity.
Today, FGM/C is widely referred to as a social norm and is practiced because of the desire to achieve social approval or acceptance and avoid disapproval and social sanctions is, however, the main reason for carrying out this practice. Communities expect women to submit to the stereotypical roles of a mother/wife, so much so that not conforming to these norms creates a toxic environment for the person and they fall prey to such practices. .
Social exclusion, stigma and inability to marry their daughters inside their community are some of the great challenges faced by families trying to abandon the practice on their own. We need to understand that in order to bring change in society, one must be endorsed by the whole community. Why? Because psychologists believe that people tend to conform to the group norms. It is mainly driven by two motivations, the desire to fit in and be liked and the desire to be accurate and gain information from the group.
“To cut off the sensitive sexual organ of a girl is directly against the honesty of nature, a distortion to her womanhood, and an abuse of her fundamental human right.”
It is high time that the practice of FGM/C is put to an end as a norm which has transformed into an institutionalized whole. Educating an empowered generation is the first and foremost step that is to be undertaken to stop this malpractice. We must create a safe space for victims to come forward and share their experience without any judgment or any other hindrance.
Social norms are not easy to give up and education does not always make a clear difference but together with the enforcement of proper laws, we might be able to take a step forward. Preventing a tiny cut, after all, might just change the lives of thousands of women and children. Let’s stand with all those fighting against this inhumane traditional practise.
(Change maker at Womenite)