- Female genital mutilation, also referred to as FGM, is one of the biggest problems many women worldwide face.
While many people who hear of the term automatically are disgusted and believe the practice is barbaric, there are some cultures and societies where FGM is practiced and even considered a source of honor.
It is mostly practiced in nations in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, or in communities from countries where it is commonly practiced.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the most horrific forms of abuse women suffer from. There are many terrifying stories of what women had to go through when they went through the procedure, and even of women dying from infections.
What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?
Female genital mutilation, sometimes referred to as female circumcision, refers to the cutting off of the external female genitalia. This can include the clitoris, inner and outer labia, and the closure of the vulva.
A tiny hole is left open for urination and menstruation, and then when a woman is married, the vaginal area is opened so that the woman can have sexual intercourse and go through childbirth. It is most commonly practiced in 29 countries in Africa:
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Cote d’Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Sierra Leone
- and Zambia.
In Asia and the Middle East, FGM is sometimes practiced in:
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
- and Palestine.
There are several communities in Russia and the country Georgia where it is practiced, as well as in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other European countries.
In South America, it is found to be practiced within communities in Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, and Peru. This is despite the fact that FGM is illegal in many of these countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) identified four different types of female genital mutilation:
- Type I: partially or totally removing the clitoris and/or prepuce,
- Type II: partially or totally removing the clitoris or labia minora, sometimes also including the labia majora,
- Type III: narrowing the vaginal opening by creating a covering using the labia minora and/or majora, and including the cutting of the clitoris, and
- Type IV: unclassified- any harmful procedures performed on the female genitalia used for non-medical reasons.
What is the reason for performing FGM?
Of course, there is no health reason as to why people perform FGM. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it greatly increases a woman’s or girl’s chances of having severe health issues.
The reason why certain nations practice it is because it is used to prevent a woman from having a sexual life. It is typically practiced in cultures where a woman’s purity and modesty are of utmost importance. The practice is deeply rooted in gender inequality and trying to control a woman sexually.
It is sometimes seen as a source of honor and is often carried out by other women. Women from countries where female genital mutilation is carried out commonly who were surveyed often responded that they carried out the practice because of reasons such as preserving virginity, social acceptance, hygiene, religion, ability to get married, and to increase male sexual pleasure.
In some countries, especially Mali, Mauritania, Guinea, and Egypt, FGM is believed to be a religious requirement. While FGM is not necessarily a requirement of Islam, many Islamic communities practice it.
However, many people automatically associate female genital mutilation with Islam, because Islam tends to focus more on feminine chastity and seclusion than other religions do.
Problems that Female Genital Mutilation Causes
There are many obvious health risks that female genital mutilation causes. Some of the short-term health risks include severe pain, excessive bleeding, shock, genital tissue swelling, infections, HIV, urination problems, impaired wound healing, and even death.
More long-term health risks are pain, infections, painful urination, menstrual problems, keloids (lots of scar tissue formation where the cutting occurred), HIV, perinatal risks, obstetric problems, obstetric fistula, and problems with female sexual health.
Many women also suffer from chronic pain syndrome.
Severe pain occurs because the female external genitalia are sensitive and covered with many nerve endings. In fact, the clitoris itself has 8,000 nerve endings. So when these nerve ends are cut, it causes extreme pain and anesthesia is usually not utilized.
Infections can occur because of excessive bleeding if an artery or blood vessel was cut, using contaminated instruments to perform the procedure, and even urinary tract infections which can even cause death if not treated.
There is no direct link between HIV and female genital mutilation, but performing the procedure with contaminated instruments and without sterilizing instruments between procedures can increase the risk of contracting HIV in women who go through FGM.
The obstruction of the vaginal epithelium allows for the disease to be introduced directly, and it can be assumed that the chance of a woman who went through FGM contracting HIV increases because the risk of bleeding during sexual intercourse increases.
Physical and Psychological Problems that Female Genital Mutilation Can Cause
Painful urination can occur if the urethra was affected during the procedure, as well as painful menstruation because of the cutting of the vaginal opening.
Removing the clitoris and other sensitive genital tissue can cause problems with a woman’s sexual health. Some of these problems can include affecting sexual sensitivity, decreased libido, pain during sex, difficulty during penetration, reduced chance of having orgasms (or complete lack of ability of having orgasms altogether), problems during penetration, and more.
Obstetric problems can occur because it is more common for a woman having gone through FGM to give birth via Cesarean section. Other problems can include extended or difficult labor, postpartum hemorrhaging, tears and lacerations, and more.
Perinatal risks include a higher chance of infant resuscitation when the baby is delivered, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths.
Besides all of these physical health problems associated with female genital mutilation, there are also, of course, psychological problems associated with the procedure.
Some studies have shown that women who have undergone FGM have an increased chance of having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.
The pain of the procedure, which often happens without anesthesia, and the physical force used to hold the girl down to prevent her from running away or jumping from the pain, often results in women affected having traumatic memories. Memory loss is even said to occur.
Can FGM cause PTSD?
A study was performed in some African communities where the practice is common. The study showed that women who underwent FGM often suffered from the same level of PTSD as people who have suffered from abuse during their childhood.
Eighty percent of women in these communities suffered from some sort of mood or anxiety disorders. Women who have gone through FGM also have an increased risk of limited mobility, depression, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, suicidal thoughts, and reduced social functioning, due to often having chronic pain syndrome.
Many women who have gone through the procedure are also said to become withdrawn, uncommunicative, or distrustful of those around them. Some other negative effects can include being emotionally distant, having flashbacks, sleep disorders, being socially isolated, and somatization.
It is more common for women to suffer from very negative mental health issues if the procedure was performed later in life, at an age which they can remember it occurring. Even still, a study showed that FGM was deeply submerged in the subconscious part of a child’s brain, which caused behavioral problems.
All women surveyed in another study had some negative side effects which were caused by stress, including bad memories and nightmares. Overall, the side effects associated with the procedure are huge and to be taken into consideration.
Measures taken to prevent FGM
Even though FGM is illegal in most countries and is considered a massive violation of human rights, it still continues to be practiced in some countries and communities.
One of the most successful ways to prevent female genital mutilation is to educate those in communities where it is more common about the dangerous health consequences associated with the procedure. Many people who perform the procedure are not even necessarily aware of what it can negatively do to a young girl.
Educating young girls is also of utmost importance here. Female genital mutilation’s occurrence decreases as the literacy of women increases. Supporting women in their education in countries where FGM occurs most commonly should thus be made a priority.
Some people, particularly in Sudan, focus on educating men about the harmful effects of female genital mutilation, because not only do men especially not know about the ins-and-outs of the procedure, but they also are seen as the head decision makers in their families. If a man does not allow for the surgery to take place, then it is almost unlikely that a young girl will have to go through it in the first place.
It is important to raise awareness about the issue and do everything possible to prevent it from occurring, so no girl has to go through this painful procedure anymore.
Check Out Other Posts Related to FGM | The Problem of Female Genital Mutilation in Islam & Many Africa Countries
- Laws About Women’s Reproductive Rights | Organizations That Support These Rights
- Girls Bullied At School: Statistics, Stories & Possible Solutions To Fight School Bullying
- Sexual Harassment At Work Is Nothing Uncommon According To Statistics: Why Laws Don’t Work? What To Do?