What is female genital mutilation and cutting?
Female genital mutilation (FGM), sometimes named female genital cutting (FGC) or by the international community often mentioned as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), is the harmful practice of removing parts of or all of a girls’ external genitals. WHO estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. UNFPA estimates that approximately 3 million girls undergo the procedure annually.
This is a practice that is deeply rooted in tradition, which has created strong social norms and gender-related constraints that allow this practice to continue. FGM is commonly practiced in many countries in Africa, but also the Middle East and some Asian and Latin American countries. There is no correlation between religion and FGM, it is practiced in both Christian, Muslim and traditional communities.
What are the effects?
Female genital mutilation is harmful to the lives and health of girls and women in the short- and long-term. In the short-term a girl may experience pain, severe bleeding, acute urine retention, fractures or dislocations, infections and death. All of these effects have an impact on the girl’s physical and mental well-being. The long-term complications may include difficulties urinating, urinary or pelvic infections, scarring, difficulties in menstruation, fistula, painful intercourse, sexual dysfunction, infertility and problems in pregnancy and childbirth. Ultimately, this limits girls’ possibilities to attend school, gain an education and become a productive part of the society. Further, it can lead to women’s inability of becoming mothers and increases the risks of maternal mortality and morbidity.
Studies have also shown a negative impact on neonatal outcomes. Thus, a baby who is born by a woman who has undergone FGM has a greater risk of dying during or immediately after birth.
If you want more facts on FGM, you can read the questions and answers prepared by Population Action International here and the WHO Fact Sheet on FGM.
So, what is being done?
There are several organizations working to eliminate female genital mutilation as a socially accepted practice, many of these are included in our Interesting Links. The most common focus areas of these programs are:
- Addressing the legal framework, to establish a law against the practice
- Creating collective community action against FGM where public declarations are used as a mechanism of social change
- Engaging influential traditional and religious leaders to understand the consequences of the practice
- Effective media campaigns
- Sexual health education, prevention and treatment of reproductive tract infections
- Psycho-social counseling
On Girls’ Globe we want to shed light on the positive changes and therefore would like to share the success story of Tostan. Tostan is an organization, which uses community led development to create change in several communities in Senegal and other African countries. It uses an educational, voluntary, inclusive and human rights based approach where the main goal is not to eliminate the practice of FGM, but to educate and raise awareness for societies to make their own decisions. Tostan has so far helped 6236 communities abandon the practice in Africa, and they are continuing to use this successful approach in other countries. It is an inspiration to see the success of such a bottom-up approach through empowerment, dialogue and education. See this inspiring video:
Next on Girls’ Globe
We will continue to look into success stories and efforts towards eliminating female genital mutilation. Soon we will be featuring Sister Fa and producers behind the Sarabah Documentary and their efforts through hip hop music, education and a documentary film, to raise awareness and educate to eliminate female genital mutilation in Senegal. Stay tuned!