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CESSATION OF THE PRACTICE OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION: NEED OF THE HOUR

By- Shivani Upadhyay, a 5th Year student at UPES, Dehradun.

Image Source: NAFIS Network

Many people have followed the conventional practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as a tradition in countries all across the world. FGM is a procedure which includes the partial or total removal of a female's external genitalia or may involve injuring a healthy genital tissue for no medical reasons, without the female's consent. It is a harmful procedure, performed on girls between infancy and age 15, [1] which interferes with her natural body, causing many short term or long term physical health and mental health implications. Sometimes, at some places, the legs of the girl are tied together for months so that the wound would heal.


FGM is practiced as a tradition in cultures that believe that cutting a female's genitalia or mutilating it would reduce her sexual desires, thereby preventing her from experiencing such desires before her marriage. These cultures see this procedure as a process of initiation of a girl into womanhood. Many communities believe that the female genitalia is extremely dirty and unhygienic, so they should be removed. Another reason for carrying out this practice is the myth that female organ would grow into the size of a male organ if it is not cut. FGM is also considered as a necessary practice for some people because they think that their religion requires it. [2]


Female Genital Mutilation, also known as Female Circumcision, is usually performed by the elderly most person in the family, and may also be carried out by male barbers, traditional medical professionals, members of secret society or herbalists, using tools like scissors, knives, razor blades or even scalpel.


According to data from 30 countries, it is estimated that more than 200 million girls who are alive today have been subjected to this inhumane practice. [3] FGM is a global concern as it is highly concentrated in Eastern, Western and North-Eastern regions of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.


Types of FGM may vary anywhere from damaging the clitoris to sewing up the vaginal opening. In some countries, this brutal practice is considered as a right of passage or a pre-requisite for marriage.

  1. Type 1: is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and/or the prepuce, i.e., the clitoral hood. This is also known as Clitoridectomy.

  2. Type 2: is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the labia minora, with or without removing the labia majora. This is known as Excision.

  3. Type 3: is where the vaginal orifice is narrowed down and then covered with a seal, which is formed by cutting labia majora or/and labia manora, which could be done with or without removing the clitoris. This is known as Infibulation.

  4. Type 4: involves piercing, incising, burning, branding, pricking, scraping, and all other kinds of harmful practices that could be done to the female genitalia for non-medical reasons.


WHY CURBING THE PRACTICE OF FGM IS AN URGENT NEED?

Female Genital Mutilation is a gross violation of Human rights of a girl child and a woman. It violates their Right to Life and Personal Liberty. It violates their right to security, dignity, and their right to live a healthy life. Not taking the girl's or the woman's consent before performing this complicated procedure on their bodies is illegal in itself. It is a form of discrimination against women when inequality between males and females exists. Surprisingly, in most of the countries, women are not only the victims of FGM but are also the perpetrators. [4]


FGM is a torturous practice that has no health benefits. It only causes harm to the girl or the woman, both physically and mentally.


Physical health consequences:

  • Excessive bleeding;

  • Vaginal Infections and Urinary Problems;

  • Sexual Problems (pain during intercourse, decreased sexual urges);

  • Menstrual problems;

  • Problems during Childbirth;

  • Need for various surgeries because of the damage caused to genitalia;

  • Death due to pain.


Psychological Consequences:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD);

  • Trust issues in women from a very early age;

  • Loss of confidence in caregivers;

  • Anxiety Disorders like Panic attacks;

  • Mood disorders like Depression;

  • Marital Conflicts which may result in divorce;

  • Aggression and Frustration because of a lack of fulfillment of sexual desires.


The amount of pain and suffering a little girl goes through during such an early age is unbearable and unimaginable. People are practicing this unjustified tradition without even thinking about the consequences mentioned above. Their belief system highlights the need for these little girls to go through this inhumane process to become socially accepted by society.


SUGGESTIONS AND CONCLUSIVE REMARKS:

People who believe in the practice of Female Genital Mutilation are only rebels without a cause. This inhumane practice is and will always remain unjustified. FGM is internationally recognized as a Human Rights violation and is a slow battle every girl is fighting. The mutilation procedure has zero health benefits, and society still supports it as a social norm. It is different from any other kind of violence against women since it is happening daily as a highly ethical cultural practice. Countries majorly in Africa, the Middle East, and Asian, including many other countries elsewhere in the world, do have laws banning the practice of FGM. Unfortunately, these laws are very poorly implemented.


One way to regulate the practice of FGM is to take the help of the new generation to change the mindset and the tradition being followed by the older generations. This new generation can help the people of older generations who are clinging onto the practice of FGM, by enlightening them about the consequences and the risks, and by showing them the reality.

People need to be educated about the fact that it is not religion that requires the happening of this practice. It is the people who preach this practice in the name of religion.


Moreover, cutting a female's genital parts violates her dignity and integrity. If infected, the wound may lead to her death, which could deprive her of her right to life. UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) have come up with a program encouraging zero-tolerance policy for the practice of FGM. These institutions have focused their efforts to eliminate this unhealthy ritual to make the world a safer and better place for girls and women to live in. Thus, if moral laws are enforced and implemented in every country, the life of 4 million girls worldwide [5], who is at the risk of being the victim of FGM every day, could be saved.

References

[1] Female Genital Mutilation, WHO, February 3, 2020.

[2] Rebecca A. Clay, Helping Victims of Female Genital Cutting, American Psychological Association, Vol. 48, May 2017.

[3] Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern UNICEF, New York, 2016.

[4] Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Frequently Asked Questions, UNFPA, July 2020.

[5] What is Female Genital Mutilation? 7 Questions Answered, UNICEF, March 4, 2019.

(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Child Rights Centre.)

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