The BBC reported that for the first time, the United Nations Population Fund has described female genital mutilation (FGM) as child abuse. According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million females worldwide in 30 different countries have endured FGM. The practice is mostly done to children, including infants.
What is female genital mutilation?
FGM involves surgically altering the exterior of a female’s genitals for non-medical reasons. There are different types of mutilation, such as partial or full removal of the clitoris and labia minora, surgically narrowing the vaginal opening (by cutting then stitching), and other forms such as cauterizing. There are no health benefits to female genital mutilation.
If that’s not enough to piss you off and make you feel squeamish, often times a razorblade is used to do the cutting. It’s horrifying.
Unicef reports that while there is a downward trend in FGM being performed, the current decline is not enough to keep up with population growth. This means that at the current rate, the amount of women subjected to this barbaric practice will rise significantly.
Why do people do this?
The only reason people still engage in female genital mutilation is because they have beliefs that lack supporting evidence. It is believed that it reduces premarital sex, improves fidelity, and increases marriageability. Some cultures practice it simply because it is a social norm. They either don’t know, or even worse, don’t care about the potential health ramifications.
It’s also seen as a “rite of passage” in a lot of places that practice it.
In societies that support this, it is a way of reinforcing patriarchal ideologies. The ideas of “increasing marriageability” and “reducing premarital sex” are ways of controlling women. I don’t think the people who support it to believe in scientific evidence about its benefits. Rather, it’s done in cultures where women are expected to be subservient – if a woman’s vagina is basically sewn shut, she is going to be easier to “keep in her place.”
What are the risks?
Again, there are no health benefits to female genital mutilation. It is not beneficial in any capacity. The risks include severe pain, urination problems, infection, and death. There is also initial research that suggests FGM can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and memory problems.
This is absolutely child abuse, is not comparable to male circumcision whatsoever, and should not be referred to as “female circumcision.” It’s mutilation.
In some cultures, female genital mutilation is done due to strongly held beliefs that are not based on evidence.
While FGM is performed mostly in some areas of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, it’s important for everyone to be sure that we’re using evidence to inform our opinions and life decisions.