Female Genital Mutilation

For all of my blog posts now I have been discussing different forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV). GBV can take place in many ways, one of which is female mutilation. This is an oppression of women’s sexuality that still affects us today. To begin my research I read a policy brief by UNICEF that discusses abandoning Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I then found an article by the World Health Organization (WHO) that provided some key facts and information about FGM. I then read an article in the New York Times that gives a first account of this experience. Finally, I found an article from the Middle East Forum (MEF) that further discusses FGM in the Middle East.

Female Genital Mutilation refers to any “procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” (WHO). This usually involves full, or partial, removal of the female genitalia. These procedures can cause severe bleeding, infections, and later, complications such as cysts and increased rates of newborn deaths. There are no medical health benefits to FGM. “FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women” (WHO).

This procedure is a social construct made to suppress women’s sexuality and pleasure. Many who survive the procedure suffer from significant trauma afterwards. This affects women all over the world, “FGM occurs in non-Muslim societies in Africa. And in Arab states such as Egypt, where perhaps 97 percent of girls suffer genital mutilation,[3] both Christian Copts and Muslims are complicit” (MEF). People often hold that there is a religious aspect to FGM. While others argue the “practice as rooted in poverty, lack of education, and superstition” (MEF).

These women don’t want to continue this practice. In a New York Times article, there is a personal account by Leyla Hussaian, a girl from Saudi Arabia, who was cut at age 7. She was not aware of the procedure until the day of. She recounts, “She was telling me part of my vagina was going to be taken away. While she’s explaining I could hear this screaming inside of the house, which was my sister being cut” (New York Times). She referred to the event as child abuse; regardless of religious or social contexts.

There are efforts being made to combat this horrible procedure, however, many cultural norms are holding us back. Often, having this procedure defines the marriageability of the daughters. UNICEF proposed a policy to combat this dilemma, specifically in Ethiopia. This approach looks at the social norms surrounding FGM. The pre-intervention phase looks at who is for, vs. against, FGM. The intervention phase conducts “community conversations” to increase awareness using the social convention theory. This theory looks at the social conventions and norms within a society and aims to help inform them of the harmful facts about FGM. (UNICEF).

We need to help.