What Is FGM And Why Does It Need To Stop?

Although female genital mutilation (FGM) has been in the news before there is a renewed effort to bring about an end to what can only be described as a violation of human rights.

FGM goes by other names such as female circumcision or female genital cutting. Whichever term is used it refers to the same basic process: the removal of external parts of the female genitals for non-medical reasons.

In general FGM is carried out on young girls between infancy and the onset of puberty. It is usually a traditional practice that is deeply ingrained in a culture, and this means that bringing about an end to it is a difficult task. But it must be tackled head on, because the scale of the problem is shocking. Worldwide it’s estimated that 125 million girls and women have undergone FGM. And although the majority of cases are found in Africa it is a problem in many other countries, including the UK where 20,000 girls are at risk every year.

There are four types of FGM. They are predominantly performed by a woman who typically has no medical training. They will use instruments such as knives, scissors and razors to make the cuts in a non-clinical setting without anaesthetics or any antiseptic procedures.

   Clitoridectomy.
This involves removing either all or a portion of the clitoris.

    Excision.
As well as removing the clitoris this also involves cutting away the inner labia. The outer labia may or may not be removed.

     Infibulation.
This narrows the vaginal opening by cutting away the clitoris, labia majora and minora and sewing up the vagina. A small opening is left to allow the passing of menstrual blood. In the event of sexual intercourse the stitches need to be removed then reapplied.

     Other Forms Of FGM.
This category includes a variety of other procedures which damage the genitals. These range from pricking with needles to scraping with blades and even burning or the application of substances which damage the area.
FGM causes physical and psychological trauma, some of which can be life threatening. These include:

Infections.
Because FGM is usually carried out with unsterilised equipment infections after the procedure are common. These can range from tetanus to HIV. Girls who have been subjected to it also have higher incidence of recurrent infections of the uterus, vagina and bladder throughout their lives.

Risk Of Infertility.
Due to the damage of the genitals, menstrual blood and other secretions can often stagnate inside the body which can lead to inflammation of the pelvis. This can damage the womb, leading to infertility.

Dangers During Pregnancy And Child Birth.
Victims of FGM have double the chance of dying during childbirth. The rates of stillborn babies are also much higher.

Damaged Mental Wellbeing.
FGM is an extremely traumatic experience usually carried out against a girl’s will. Many suffer from flashbacks and relive the trauma, and incidence of depression, anxiety and personality disorders are higher in girls and women who have undergone FGM.

In the UK and other countries FGM is illegal, but in countries where it is most prevalent there are often no laws against it and it continues to be a cultural norm I the groups that practise it. However within these countries there is a growing awareness that FGM is both damaging and wrong.

You can help end FGM by joining the campaigns to end it within a generation. It’s  global problem and it requires a global solution.

Visit Plan UK to find out what you can do to help stop FGM.

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