Female Genital Mutilation

The horrifying issue only 1/3 of the global population is aware of.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women. An extreme form of discrimination against women, it reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. It is nearly always carried out on minors, which is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

There are 3 forms of FGM.
1. The partial or total removal of the clitoris
2. The partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; the narrowing of the vaginal orifice.
3. In the third, and most extreme form, the clitoris and labia are cut away with any sharp object – glass, knife, scissors or razor blade. The labia stumps are then sewn together. A hole remains the size of a match head for urination, which commonly leads to pain and frequent infection.

Quick Facts
-The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and among migrants from these areas.

-Girls and their families - even if they are now living in Western countries - are put under tremendous pressure to adhere to this tradition. Over one million girls and women living in Europe and North America have been forces to undergo FGM- 700,000 victims live in Europe, 140,000 in the UK, 100,000 in France and 500,000 women in the USA.

-FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.

-10 – 20 infants die per 1,000 births due to FGM on the African continent. 

-7 out of 10 girls will be cut at home, not in a medical establishment. Many FGM procedures are done by traditional circumcisers, or “cutters”, who are not doctors.

Health problems may include
Bleeding and problems urinating
A 70% increase in postpartum hemorrhage
A 66% higher risk of emergency resuscitation for baby
A 55% higher infant mortality rate

Why it is practiced
70% believe men prefer to marry a woman who has been excised. 
60% believe that excised wives are more faithful.
50% believe that excision preserves virginity and prevents adultery.
45% do not believe that FGM harms a girl’s health or could lead to her death.

1. Social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing for hundreds of years.
2. Considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
3. Beliefs that FGM reduces a woman's libido and therefore she will resist "illicit" sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed (type 3 above), the fear of the pain of opening it is expected to further discourage sex among women.
4. Cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are “clean” and "beautiful" after removal of their genitals.

“Girls are cut to ensure they remain faithful because the sexual organ is not there anymore. When you are cut you will not be a slut looking for men here and there like a prostitute.”
'You are docile, waiting for your husband because after you are cut, sex is for having children not for anything else.'
-Cutter Anna-Moora Ndege

“In the body there is good blood and bad blood. After a girl is cut the bad blood is gone“
-Cutter woman Agnes Keruba

Ogeto said: 'Families worry that their girls will be made outcasts and be shunned if they are not cut. She would be called names – told that she was smelly, told that her "organ would grow until it touched the floor".
-Kenyan anti-FGM campaigner Ester Ogeto

“a woman with a clitoris 'can't distinguish between her husband and other men'
“They cannot control their emotions if they have a clitoris”
“uncut girls 'are told they smell like a dog”

Supermodel Waris Dirie, has campaigned against the practice, spurred on buy her own horrific ordeal when she had her genitalia cut and her vagina sewn up using thorns. She said: 'The society I grew up in, girls and women are not respected. As a woman you have no rights. They [men] can abuse you, misuse you, rape you, mutilate you, beat you up and dismiss you, if they want.
'Nobody will protect you when you are a woman. People believe a girl will not be faithful if she develops any sexual feelings or pleasure. Therefore they destroy the girl's sexuality in cutting her genitals. It is the worst form of child abuse.' 

What’s being done
The most important Task is to create awareness among the populations, this in cooperation with the local authorities – village leaders, imams, pastor and teachers – and with the involvement of former circumcisers. It is also necessary, to grant the former circumcisers a small loan, to enable them to start a new profession. Other projects intend to help directly the girls and women who are at risk of being mutilated: this can involve basic education, especially for younger girls, based on the agreement that these girls will not be circumcised. Medical help is also provided in many cases.

What you can do
Everyone can contribute to the fight against FGM by spreading awareness on the topic to friends, family and through social media outreach. The more the public becomes aware of the barbaric tradition of FGM, the more we can rally to put a stop to it.

Visit Equality Now to take action through advocating or to make a donation!

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