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.