If you didn’t know, February 6 was the 11th annual Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
It’s not often that you think about the genitalia of a female in a, particularly, rancid manner. It is something to either be appreciated, feared, or maybe slightly disliked, depending on your preferences in the boudoir. Even the most misogynistic males amongst us do tend to cherish that region, even if they are slightly derogatory towards the owner of it.
Unfortunately, though, there are a certain number of people in this world who would think about the female genitalia in a less respectful manner. These are the men and women who openly, willingly, and happily perform the act of female genital mutilation (or FGM). It is a process that comprises procedures which involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. According to the World Health Organisation, about 140 million women and girls have been at the whim of this practice, globally, with a further 86 million expected by 2030.
Based on these figures, FGM seems like a pretty popular practice, but for those of you who choose to defend the right of those who condone it, whether it be in the name of religion — a frequently cited reason — or as a cultural norm, I would like to present some facts. FGM is an archaic, unnecessary practice, which violates the basic human rights of women and girls. In many cases, it causes severe bleeding and health issues; including, cysts, infections and infertility. Complications when it comes to childbirth, which also greatly increase the risk of newborn deaths, have also been noted.
While I have never been the beacon of light for pro-equality thinkers and the Feminist movement, I have to say that FGM violates the basic human rights of young women. These are the rights to health, security and physical integrity. Their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. But most importantly, their right to life when the procedure carries a high death risk.
Now, there are three different categories of FGM:
Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.
Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner or outer labia, with or without the removal of the clitoris.
Each of these methods are practised around 30 countries in western, eastern, and north-eastern Africa, in parts of the Middle East and Asia, and within a large number of immigrant communities throughout Europe, North America and Australia. It is legal in a number of these countries, and mainly carried out — without anaesthetic — on girls between infancy and the age of fifteen. There are absolutely no health benefits from the procedure but there is a tendency to rationalise it as a rite of passage into womanhood in northern Africa and the Middle East. The reality though, is that FGM is just an extreme for of violence. A violence which is used to control young girls’ and women’s sexuality through a mixture of cultural, social and religious traditions associated with preparing women for adulthood and marriage through the ideals of modesty and fidelity.
There is already a growing movement, globally, against FGM. Awareness is spreading and support for its termination grows daily. But to make true progress, we, in free-thinking Western nations, must speak out against the taboo of FGM. We must show that we will not judge or disregard those who have become victims of this archaic and barbarous mistreatment. That we will give them a platform to bravely talk about their experiences. If the victims speak, the secrecy around the global practice of FGM will be broken and misunderstandings surrounding it will be resolved.
So today, I invite you to research the practice of FGM and to look out for those in your community who may well find themselves becoming victims of it.