February 6 is observed as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) every year.
WHAT IS FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM)?
- Also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, FGM is the cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia for non-medical or cultural reasons.
- The practice is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and within communities from countries in which FGM is common.
- Typically carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade, FGM is conducted from days after birth to puberty and beyond.
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WHY IS IT PRACTICED?
- The practice is rooted in gender inequality, attempts to control women’s sexuality, and ideas about purity, modesty and beauty.
- It is usually initiated and carried out by women, who see it as a source of honour and fear that failing to have their daughters and granddaughters cut will expose the girls to social exclusion.
- The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has categorised the reasons into five categories:
- Psycho-sexual reasons ;
- Sociological or cultural reasons;
- Hygiene and aesthetic reasons;
- Religious reasons;
- Socio-economic factors.
The WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA issued a joint statement in 1997 defining FGM as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons”. World Health Organization (WHO) classifies four types of FGM:
- Type 1 (partial or total removal of the clitoral glans);
- Type 2 (partial or total removal of the external and visible parts of the clitoris and the inner folds of the vulva);
- Type 3 (infibulation, or narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal),
- Type 4 (picking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterising the genital area).
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WHERE IS IT PRACTICED MOST?
- Countries where FGM is performed include Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Egypt, Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iraq, Iran, Georgia, Russian Federation, Columbia and Peru, among others.
- According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), while the exact origins of the practice remain unclear, it seems to have predated Christianity and Islam.
- In 2018, a study on FGM in India said that the practice was up to 75 % across the Bohra Muslim community.
- The study was conducted by three independent researchers.
WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS INVOLVED IN THIS?
- FGM harms women’s physical and emotional health throughout their lives.
- The short-term and late complications depend on the type of FGM, whether the practitioner has had medical training, and whether they used antibiotics and sterilized or single-use surgical instruments.
- Common short-term complications include swelling, excessive bleeding, pain, urine retention, and healing problems/wound infection.
- Other short-term complications include fatal bleeding, anaemia, urinary infection, septicaemia, tetanus, gangrene, necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), and endometritis.
- FGM may place women at higher risk of problems during pregnancy and childbirth, which are more common with the more extensive FGM procedures.
- Neonatal mortality is increased. The WHO estimated in 2006 that an additional 10–20 babies die per 1,000 deliveries as a result of FGM.
- Women with FGM suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.