This post is written by: Paula Kweskin, Human Rights Attorney and Documentary Filmmaker
Imagine a surgery performed with dirty instruments, without anesthesia, and no doctor. No one dresses your wounds and there are no follow-up appointments. This is not a description of a medieval medical procedure; it is a practice which takes place every six minutes around the world. 140 million girls and women have been affected by female genital mutilation (FGM), the cutting and/or removal of a girl’s genitalia in order to preserve her “honor” or “purity.”
FGM violates several human rights principles, including rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
FGM is not prescribed by any particular religion, and yet it is often advocated by religious and community leaders who believe the removal of a girl’s clitoris is necessary to ensure she marries well, brings honor to her family or clan, preserves her virginity and limits her sexual drive.
FGM is a horrific practice; it should never be excused by culture, religion, or tradition. Though the procedure may take moments, a girl is scarred for the rest of her life. She will likely endure serious physical and emotional trauma, including problems menstruating and urinating, complications during childbirth, and a higher risk of sexually-transmitted diseases.
And, while shocking to many, more girls than ever are at risk of the practice in the United States.
A recent report by the Center for Disease Control revealed that at least 500,000 women and girls are at risk of FGM in the United States. This number is up three-fold from a previous study conducted fifteen years prior. Experts attribute this rise to the increase in immigrants to the USA who practice FGM.
As activists and human rights advocates, we must be shocked into action by the half a million women who have undergone – or are at risk of – a barbaric practice in the US, and the hundreds of millions who suffer from it globally.
On this day – the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM – please take a moment to educate yourselves and then share this video with your friends and family. It is a clip about the practice of FGM taken from my documentary film, Honor Diaries. Feel free to check out the full film on Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix.
Let’s educate ourselves and all work together to #endFGM this generation!
Cover Photo Credit: Fixers, Flickr Creative Commons