The world likes to pretend the bad parts, the ugly parts of life don’t exist. As a woman, the bad parts of life are seen as arbitrary, as something to be overlooked- Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, cannot be overlooked. More than half a million women and girls in the US alone are at risk of FGM, with over half a million living with it in the US today. In a global stance, more than 200 million women have gone through it. When something as traumatizing as having pieces of your vagina torn apart happens to to millions of girls daily, it’s about time to end the tradition.
Female Genital Mutilation is practiced in more than 29 countries, because of few having laws prohibiting it, simply because it’s considered a cultural norm. In the US alone, according to the PRB, the cities with the most girls at risk in the thousands with over 56,000 in California, next with over 48,000 in New York, and nearly 45,000 in Minnesota. Only one has been charged with FGM in the entire country, out of thousands of procedures. Just because it’s a cultural norm, doesn’t mean it’s right. In the simplest terms, FGM is a huge violation of not only human rights, but a huge hit for women’s and children’s health.
Female genital mutilation procedure can range from 4 types:
Type 1: Clitoridectomy: partial/ total removal of the clitoris and, sometimes only the prepuce (the skin surrounding the clitoris).
Type 2: Excision: partial/ total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, and sometimes excision of the labia majora
Type 3: Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening and repositioning certain parts, sometimes removing the clitoris altogether.
Type 4: Other procedures including pricking, incising, scraping and so on with the genital area.
With any procedure, it ends the same way most of the time: with either disfiguring and debilitating of physical health and a drop in mental health. While the procedure continues, it’s been proven that there are no health benefits of any kind. Immediate complications can include severe pain, infections, genital tissue complications, bleeding, fever, shock, and sometimes, death. Long-term consequences include the possibilities urinary problems, vaginal issues, menstrual problems, scar tissue complications, sexual problems in and out of the bedroom, increased risk of childbirth complications including and newborn deaths, later surgeries to reverse the initial procedure, and death. Mental issues can include a range of psychological problems from depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, self-esteem issues, and so on.
“‘If I were to take you out of that equation, you would be regarded as an outcast, an unclean person. You would not be a part of us.'”
Despite being considered a cultural norm by many, there is no evidence of religious scripts describing the practice, only by an upheaval by levels of authority and generational approval. FGM is considered a fundamental step for preparing a girl for adulthood and marriage through becoming desirable to men through the procedure. It’s seen as purity, fidelity, premarital virginity insurance, femininity, modesty, and seen as a sign of beauty, according to sources.
Suppression, silence, control- what FGM is all about. The cultural norm stands on the basis of “controlling” the women through their sexuality. The mindset being if they ensure the procedure of removing a piece of their genitalia that it’ll keep their “innocence” and loyalty in check, that this norm will reduce a women’s libido and acts of infidelity. Their bodies are not yours to play with, to decide what’s best for them. The truth wasn’t important, the final image was.
According to Cosmopolitan, a survivor Aisha, 33, recalls her account with FGM in graphic detail. She tells how ripped apart she felt and how she always questioned why it happened to her. Years later she asked her mother if she put her through that to protect her. The mother responded with, “If I were to take you out of that equation, you would be regarded as an outcast, an unclean person. You would not be a part of us. And I don’t want anyone to be an outcast of our society. This is who we are.”
Many people view FGM as an outdated tradition that only violates human rights, others see it as a precaution to live a normal, happy life. What do you think?
While it’s still prevalent, movements like WHO, UNICF, UN, and FORWARD are working towards abolishing the procedure and implementation of safeguards, partnerships, and support the women through psychological help, resources for life afterward, and helping it. For the people to help, raise awareness through social media on #EndFGM, educating people on it, and community outreach through grants. No one should be in fear of “cutting seasons.”
Millions of women are living with FGM as you’re reading this. Just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t make it any less real. Women are not creatures with bodies to be tamed, we are human beings with a voice that refuses to be tamed.