In many countries, there is a culture or tradition of cutting away areas of female genitalia or otherwise damaging it. FGM (Female genital mutilation) is a culturally sensitive subject. The practice has been handed down for centuries and is part of rites of passage and a woman’s cultural identity. I don’t believe that girls need to be mutilated to become women or anything else, but victims. The practice of cutting must stop.
It is inhumane to hold girls down then without anaesthetic cut off all or part of their genitalia for non-medical purposes. The women (village elders) who do this use razor blades, sharpened stone, glass, or even cauterise the area. Procedures also include labia elongation; stretching the labia using sticks, harnesses or weights and breast ironing. The origins of FGM are unclear, but some Ancient Egyptian mummies show Type 3 FGM. The Egyptian’s likely did it to distinguish the rich girls from the slaves.
FGM And Marriage
The cultural rationale is to prepare a girl for womanhood and marriage. Those are a heavy burden to place on an eight-year-old girl child or younger. See the video below. There are many explanations for cutting like the belief it stops a woman’s sexual desire. That may explain the religious link although it clearly identifies women as property and that is a feature of patriarchy. The point is emphasised as cutting is also to enhance a man’s pleasure.
Another reason is proof that girls have not had sex before marriage. So they are sewn up! Barely leaving little room for the menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, it is usual that a girl is considered ready for marriage after FGM. Consequently, there is a link between child brides and FGM.
FGM is to prepare a girl for a man. Male circumcision, on the other hand, is for religious reasons as stated in Islam and Judaism. However, if circumcision were carried out to the same degree as FGM there would be no penis left.
Nonetheless, sometimes people do things not because they want to harm but because it is all they know. So although I think FGM is child abuse and a breach of human rights, I think using the criminal law to manage the issue should be a last resort.
The reasons for the practice of FGM points to a lack of knowledge. Therefore the primary tool to prevent FGM must be education. For example, the idea that removal of female genitalia will reduce a woman’s sex drive is simply wrong. Sexual appetite is the job of the hormones, removing the genitalia just makes, what should be a pleasure, painful. Another myth says that cutting prevents a woman from smelling. That is untrue, especially in the case of Type 3 FGM which can make the vagina less hygienic.
Better education and sanitary awareness do not mean that FGM is comparable to cosmetic surgery, even though, the parties have knowledge. The cultural pressure is so considerable, and it begs the question whether one could ever be truly free to consent. I don’t think they would be.
Female genital mutilation is illegal in Britain, but thousands of British girls are at risk, as in the USA. There are many ways to help end the practice of cutting girls. We need to talk about it and sharing this article is a start. Mobilise family and friends to support organisations and even become volunteers. We must raise awareness because FGM is nothing but torture causing both short and long term health issues including psychological trauma, painful scarring, and even death.
#EndFGM International Day of Zero Tolerance is 6 February.
To sign the petition to save Acton’s FGM clinic click here
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