Medical Impacts of Female Genital Mutilation on Childbirth and Maternity

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a widely known and widely disputed practice in which a young girl’s clitoris and/or labia is removed or mutilated and in it’s most serious form, the vaginal opening is narrowed or stitched closed. 

The three types of FGM are as follows:                                                         Type I: The prepuce and clitoris are removed                                                 Type II: The clitoris and labia minora are removed                                         Type III: Part or all of external genitalia is removed and the vaginal opening is stitched shut or narrowed. 

For the most part, this cultural practice presses on for a few reasons, the first being marriageability. Young women are often only able to find husbands to support them if they have undergone this procedure, quelling or eliminating their sexual desire to prevent impurity before marriage. Because finding a husband is of such importance in the regions where FGM is most prominent, specifically much of Africa, south Asia, and Australia, practitioners continue to justify the practice despite the severe pain caused to the girls. 

Besides the cultural implications of sexual oppression, FGM carries physical health ramifications as well, especially in the realm of maternity and childbirth. According to a study published in a policy brief on Reproductive Health and Research, women who undergo type III FGM are 30% more likely to require cesarean sections and 70% more likely to experience postpartum hemorrhage  than women who have not endured genital mutilation.

In addition to the impact on women themselves, there are also significantly higher risks for their children – babies born to women who have undergone FGM are more likely to need to be resuscitated or to die perinatally, according to the study. The risk of death increases depending on the type of FGM the mother has undergone, and statistics published in the policy brief state death rates among babies to be “15% higher for women with type I, 32% higher for those with type II and 55% higher for those with type III.”

Click here to view the policy brief on the impact of FGM on childbirth in Africa. 

Female Genital Mutilation is not a new practice; it has been silently endured by women and their children for generations upon generations for the sake of tradition. The sexual oppression of women has been prioritized over their health and well being, and the topic has only relatively recently become a matter of public international concern. Because women have, unsurprisingly, not been valued in the regions where FGM is most prevalent, minimal research has been done on the actual as opposed to ideological impacts of FGM, and access to health care for women suffering the ramifications is even more minimal. 



Women’s Health and Education

by Carly Dillis

The health of women worldwide has further implications beyond physical well-being. Health is a profound predictor of overall quality of life and has capabilities to infringe upon the accessibility of other human needs. Without basic health, women cannot be equal as they are consistently tied down by their lack of physical well-being. Women, as all people, have a right to their health. Women deserve to have their health be a priority in global development. Not only because health is beneficial for its own sake, but because of its intersection with others areas of development. Basic health for women must be achieved before other development goals can be truly successful.

Continue reading “Women’s Health and Education”

Female Genital Mutilation – Not Just a Problem for Africa

This blogpost is about Female Genital Mutilation, specifically the practice in Eurocentric, Westernized countries. Many people believe FGM is only a practice found in Africa/ “developing” nations, but by using 2 news articles, one large-scale European one (BBC-The first ever FGM figures show nearly 6,000 new cases in England), and the other a smaller news source from the Arab world (Nature Middle East- Bringing to life the case against female genital mutilation), I will shed light on FGM happening in westernized countries. By using these sources for individual stories and using a scholarly article (Healthcare in Europe for Women with Genital Mutilation), I further delve into how culture and immigration has brought FGM to the western world. Using a policy paper (UNICEF’S data work on FGM/C), I found helpful statistics about FGM and the silent, painful practice all over the world.

         When we as a society think about FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) we think about a cultural practice taking place predominantly in Africa and what the Western world deems as “developing” nations. But, how true is that fact? 680,000 women in Europe endure the painful and illegal process of FGM practices, but only a handful of people executing this practice are prosecuted. 

        FGM is, in some cultures, a traditional cultural practice that includes partially removing or fully removing a pubescent girls’ external genitalia for reasons that are non-medical. This is seen by many as a necessity to raising females, and motivated by societal beliefs for controlling sexual behavior within young girls. The practice has no medical benefits, and can in fact, cause harm later in a women’s life. Many countries including Chad,  Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Canada, Europe, and America have outlawed the practice and try to prosectue those doctors who subject young girls to the painful practice. Interestingly, France has also started cracking down on FGM and on top of prosecuting the doctor they also prosecute the parents.

       Although government officials have been cracking down on FGM to protect their girls, nobody is being charged. It seems that the governments of many Westernized countries are just sweeping FGM under the rug and pretending it doesn’t happen, though in places like the UK, where the practice has been illegal since 1985, authorities have been unable to successfully prosecute even one case. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening, according to a study by Equality Now and City University in 2015, around 103,000 women and children were living with FGM in the UK. 

     Many times, people immigrate from their home country for a multitude of reasons, war, financial instability, as a refugee, seeking better education, and the list could go on. When said people come to the new country, they often bring their cultures with them. That is how Female Genital Mutilation came to be practiced in places like the UK and other parts of the Western world. Nut, many cases of FGM in Westernized countries aren’t acknowledged because theres a common social stigma that something like genital mutilation would never happen in the “developed” world, so, many women continue to suffer from the harmful side effect of the practice silently.

     There’s also another stigma and a stereotype attached to Female genital mutilation. The practice of FGM carries lots of stereotypes, including that it’s a ‘savage and dangerous practice’. But, what about similar genital plastic surgery alterations made for non-medical reasons performed in Eurocentric countries by doctors. Why is FGM only savage and dangerous and illegal when performed in third world countries? Why is one version of a fairly similar surgery looked upon highly while the other is condemned? Why does society allow plastic surgery to exist, but ignore the existence of FGM as a worldwide problem, not just a problem for developing countries?

      These questions and stigmas are necessary for us as a global society to face, advocate for, and attempt to solve in order to create a better, safer, healthier world for all girls and women, regardless of what culture is or where they live.




Transgender Women’s Higher Susceptibility to HIV

Transgender women, more specifically transgender women of color, have a higher prevalence rate for HIV than people with other gender identities. According to one aids government source 19% of straight women were living with HIV in 2013  and 22% of transgender women in higher income countries had HIV whereas other studies claim it is 30%Continue reading “Transgender Women’s Higher Susceptibility to HIV”