Among the various atrocities against women in India, genital mutilation is the worst of all. It refers to the removal of external genitals of young women for non-medical reasons. It is universally performed and unquestioned. Abbreviated as FGM, it is a violation of human rights and women.
What are the reasons behind this act?
- FGM is considered to be an intrinsic part of raising a girl and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
- Another belief that exists with regard to FGM is that it ensures premarital virginity and marital fidelity.
- According to the advocators of FGM, a woman’s libido plays a major role in encouraging women to perform sexual acts. Thus, FGM is believed to force women to remain faithful to their husbands.
- It is also associated with cultural notions which propagate that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of certain body parts that are considered unfeminine or dirty.
Who performs it?
Elders are the main people responsible for carrying out FGM. Traditional health practitioners, barbers, members of secret societies or a female relative are also designated to perform the same task. In some cases, medical professionals are roped in to perform FGM.
What are the various instruments used?
Special knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades are the various equipments used for carrying out FGM. Only medical practitioners use anesthetic and antiseptics.
What are its consequences?
FGM harms girls and women in a myriad of ways-:
Short term consequences
- Excessive bleeding
- Severe pain
Long-term consequences include
- vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections);
- urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections);
- Menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.)
- Psychological problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, etc.)
What do the statistics say?
- The brutal practice is prevalent in 29 countries. Among these, there are eight countries wherein all the young girls are cut.
- In Somalia, the prevalence is 98%, in Guinea 96%, in Djibouti 93% and in Egypt, in spite of its partly westernized image, 91%. In Eritrea and Mali the figure is 89% and a prevalence of 88% was reported in both Sierra Leone and Sudan.
- Infant and adolescent girls are highly vulnerable. According to the latest survey, more than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually.
How have International Organizations reacted to this?
International organizations like World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund have made great efforts to counteract FGM through research, work within communities and changes in Public policy. A number of reports revolving around the same issue have been published. A resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation has also been adopted to accelerate the process. A number of health workers have been trained to mitigate the effects that are caused due to the FGM. The practice has also been banned in a number of countries.
The fact that it is the worst form of gender inequality must be recognized. Putting an end to FGM requires an unparalleled support from different sections of society, including families, communities, governments and media. It is only through their collaborative efforts that such a brutal practice can be dealt with.
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