What is Female Genital Mutilation?

THE FACTS

It is the crude removing of the genitals of very young girls.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a destructive ritual which involves the female genitalia being partly or entirely removed or injured in order to suppress a woman’s sexual desire. The mutilation is almost always conducted on prepubescent girls between the ages of four and eight, and what those who conduct the ritual don’t fully realise is the incredible pain and suffering the victims endure for the rest of their lives. While there are a large number of girls who survive the ritual, there are also many who die.

The healing process, which is really just temporary until the girl becomes a woman, involves the sewing together of the labia or outer lips. Only a small hole for urine and menstruation remains. The girl’s legs are bound together while she lies, unable to move, for about three weeks. The healing is nearly completely undone when the girl marries, as the scar needs to be re-opened, by her new husband, before intercourse. This is a completely barbaric form of torture, as unnecessary and additional pain is inflicted on the victim yet again.

Young girls in many cultures aren’t entitled to make their own decisions about what happens to their bodies. In fact, the belief is that by putting these girls through genital mutilation at a young age, they will not cave into sexual desires. This is nothing short of a crime, and a horrific one at that!

THE TRUTH

Female Genital Mutilation is a crudely-executed, non-medical procedure that is conducted without sterilised tools or anaesthesia on young girls and women. There are no associated health benefits with this procedure, nor is there any evidence to support the belief that removing or mutilating the genitals does suppress sexual urges in females.

The procedure causes urination problems and terrible bleeding, as well as infections. There is also a noted increase in stillbirths, as well as cysts and infertility. There are 150 million girls and women living with the aftermath of having their genitals cut out or mutilated throughout the world.

The procedure is not necessarily conducted by medical professionals, either. Mostly, traditional circumcisers, who also attend childbirths, carry out the ritual. Midwives, healers or barbers can perform the ritual as well. Hygiene is not usually a consideration as knives, scissors, razor blades or pieces of broken glass can be used to execute the procedure. The scariest statistic is that over 18 per cent of all female genital mutilation is done by health care providers trained in Western medical practices. This percentage is increasing.

Cutting out or mutilating someone’s genitals is a clear reflection of the inequality between the sexes, a violation of female human rights, and violates several other rights outlined in the United Nations ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. This includes a person’s rights to health, physical integrity, the right to freedom from torture and otherwise inhuman treatment, and the general right to life. This proceedure has been recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, something needs to be done to restore these rights. Of the 54 countries in Africa only 16 have laws that ban the mutilating of a girl’s genitals. Those laws are often ignored.

Help us put an end to this crime, and give young girls the right to their own bodies.

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KEY FACTS

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises 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 is crude, and done without anaesthetic or sterilised tools.
  • It has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding, problems with urinating, cysts, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth and increased risks of new born deaths.
  • About 150 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of having their genitals mutilated or cut out.
  • Genital mutilation is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
  • In Africa, an estimated 92 million girls aged 10 and above have undergone crude mutilations of their genitals.
  • Genital mutilation is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

*The above is from a statement by the World Health Organisation

FORCED YOUNG MARRIAGES

In many parts of Africa, not only is female genital mutilation practised, but young girls, often only 12 years old are forced into marriages with men who are very much older.

In time, these older men die, leaving a young mother with many children to feed, all alone.

Often, their tradition does not allow her to remarry. She and her family have a future in poverty. Until she can ‘marry off’ her young daughters in exchange for a ‘bride price’, a farm animal. And each daughter is now one less mouth for her to feed.

This is another practise that Rights of Girls wishes to support the end of.