Everything You Need To Know About Female Genital Mutilation
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Everything You Need To Know About Female Genital Mutilation

Lakshmi Devan
3 min read

Everything You Need To Know About Female Genital Mutilation

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If you possess female genitalia, or are otherwise faint hearted, then what is going to follow will most likely shake you up.

I apologise in advance. Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is any procedure that intentionally alters, severs, or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons – something that is believed to affect up to 140 million women and girls, globally. Divided into 3 main categories (based on the severity of cutting and pain, where III is where the clitoris and labia are both cut off), it is no surprise that the procedure is considered a violation of human rights. Who does it, and why? What are its outcomes? Is this a kind of torture technique? Do the women have a choice to opt against it? Does it happen in countries like India?

Here’s everything you should know about FGM:

  1. The average age of a girl undergoing FGM (by choice or not) is 10.
Most FGMs are performed while the girl is between 10 and 15 years of age – at an age where she is too young to understand it, or object to it. Even the few with some knowledge are brainwashed into believing that their worth lies in being ‘chastised’ by the procedure, or that every girl must undergo the procedure to bloom into a woman. Some cultures also consider the procedure to be an equivalent of circumcision, done to ensure cleanliness.

2. The practice is most common in Africa and the Middle East.

A majority of all FGMs happen in Egypt, Guinea, and Djibouti, but countries like Iraq, Yemen, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries also report female genital mutilation practices in significant numbers. It is estimated that about 5,00,000 women in the US have either undergone the procedure, or are at the risk of it. Shocking!

3. In some countries, families have medical professionals perform the procedure.

It is safe to say that the practice is not just restricted to rural populations, and that urban medical professionals play an equally vital role in it. In Egypt, over 70 per cent of the cuttings are done by medical professionals, meaning that either the surgeries are done at hospitals or clinics, or at home by the same person. Having such procedures done by a medical professional definitely means less pain and chances of infections, but it still remains nowhere close to safe or ethical.

4. No documented health benefits from FGM for the woman.

Other than the culture-invented benefits of FGM, medically, it gives the woman no benefits whatsoever. On the contrary, the procedure can actually make things worse – the chances of complications during childbirth, post-partum haemorrhage, infections, and death rate among newborn babies are all significantly higher with such women. The World Health Organization notes a research that found that:
  1. There was an increased need to resuscitate babies right after birth, whose mothers had undergone FGM (66 per cent higher in women with FGM III).
  2. The death rate among babies during and right after birth was much higher for when mothers with FGM were involved (15 per cent higher in those with FGM I, 32 per cent higher in those with FGM II, and 55 per cent higher in those with FGM III).
  3. An estimated 10-20 babies die per 1000 deliveries in Africa, due to ignorance pertaining to complications that arise in women who have undergone FGM.
Several thousands of women also suffer nerve damage, tetanus, infections, menstrual problems, and live with an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. The only way to curb these torturous rituals would be by spreading awareness about the risks and ramifications of such procedures. You could also volunteer in non-profit organisations like ‘Daughters of Eve’ or ‘Forward’, who work towards the eradication of FGM, or be a part of social media campaigns, and pressure groups, and have open discussions with other members of the community to send out the message loud and clear:

“We are human beings, and we make traditions. Hence we should also have the right to change them.”

               – Malala Yousafzai

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