Female genital mutilation is one of the evil perpetrated in Africa in the guise of tradition. It involves the cutting and removal of all or some parts of the external female genitals. As a rite of passage in the traditional African society, FGM (Female Circumcision) is carried out on the female children- from infancy to the adolescent age. The idea behind the act is basically to fulfill traditional/customary requirements. Seconding that reason is the fact that it helps the female gender to be tamed and virtuous for the spouse and the family as well. By implication, the circumcision of the girl child is a societal favor as it will reduce the rate of promiscuity. According to UNICEF Report, 130 million girls and women across Africa and the middle East are victims of this practice; in concurrence to that, the 2010 UNFPA health report cites that 20% of the women with mutilated genitals have been infibulated. Infibulation is the 3rd type and most severe form of FGM- involving the removal of the clitoris glans, the labia minora and adjacent medial part of the labia majora, and the stitching of the vaginal orifice, leaving a small opening for urination and menstruation. Other types include:
-Type I involves the removal of the prepuce(hood) of the clitoris; and is the least severe form of FGM.
– Type II(Clitoridectomy) is more severe than Type I. It involves the removal of the clitoris along with partial or total excision of the labia minora
-Type IV (including other unrecognized patterns) involves the cutting, pricking, piercing, or incision of the clitoris and/or labia, scraping, stretching the clitoris and/or labia, cauterization, the use of acerbic herbs in the vagina.
FGM comes with tons of health complications- immediate and long-term. In realization of the health hazard that it is, the essence has been put to the argument and there doesn’t seem to be any spectacular good from this tradition, neither is there a credible reason for it. Sadly in some rural parts of Africa- Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and some parts of Sudan, this baseless and degrading act is still breathing and strongly at that. In critical cases the future effect demands series of surgeries to permit the natural function of the woman’s body.
1. It’s Illegal/Inhuman
Circumcision is a gross violation of the human person; but twice as severe when it is a girl child or woman involved. Actually for the lack of crystal clear words, illegal is the second name for female genital mutilation. Every individual is entitled to basic human rights – child or not, and not even culture can take that away. That is why the UN General Assembly endorsed the eradication of FGM. Gone are the days when people were mandated and pressured into barbaric practices. So let the first reason after a giant ‘NO’ be the unlawful nature of this hideous act. Perpetrators are guilty of criminality of the highest order and we hope that the guilty African nations will take this act serious enough to tow the line of other African nations that have outlawed FGM.
2. It’s Unhygienic
With filthy hands, unsterilized tools why will anyone subject their child to this inappropriate procedure? Why consent to be operated upon with such crude and dirty instruments; by unhygienic and unqualified hands; and in an unhygienic manner? This is utterly preposterous, dangerous and detrimental to the health of the young girls subjected to this ill practice. More often than not same instruments are used and re-used for different people, and you wonder why the spread of HIV is rampant in some parts of Africa? This is an express way to be infected with the virus, tetanus and a host of other infections.
3. Chronic Pain
Circumcision has a religious and traditional undertone in many places. So since there is no medical attachment to it, they are done as plainly rough as possible using germ-infested instruments and worse still with no administration of an anesthetic to ease the terrible pain from the cuts and injuries. No one should ever have to go through this kind of excruciating ordeal. The infuriating part of this is that since there are no medications to handle the pain, the victims struggle through the procedure and this can alter some cuts, thereby inflicting random injuries on the organs, which is triple as excruciating.
As a result of the cuts and struggles, the female victims lose a lot of blood from the traditional treatment. Hemorrhage is a constant and most common side effect of FGM and has caused the loss of many lives for no just cause. It could also be as a result of complications during the procedure which most of the times end in instant death of the victims.
5. Major Health Complications
FGM has seriously not done any form of good in the African society and that’s why it is baffling to comprehend the reason why it is hard for people to see it for the evil that it is. FGM on a long-term effect causes prolonged labor, increased perinatal morbidity and mortality rate of both mothers and newborns. In cases of infibulation, the procedure narrows the vaginal opening which requires incessant surgical opening and closing to enable intercourse and childbirth. Just how many women will be willing to go through these hurtful and health-unfriendly rigors?
Another health issue that the FGM poses to women is the recurrent pelvic, bladder and urinary tract Infections; vulval adhesions, dysmenorrhea, retention cysts, and sexual difficulties with anorgasmia. The chronic nature of these infections becomes a gradual impediment to live a happy life and worse still adds to the child-bearing complications.
The FGM victim with infections and child-bearing complications is counted lucky despite the odds, the second worst case scenario after death is becoming infertile. Africans respect the idea of procreation especially within the family; so it is indeed a contradictory practice to constantly render millions of girls infertile for their future families and spouses-plain inhumanity from the course of a useless tradition that unfairly wrecks the lives and homes of the younger generation. What then happens when there is no one to pass on the mantle to?
Thank goodness for modern medical inventions, else, the same people who preach the gospel of FGM and lure girls into it will be the first to accuse them of not being woman enough to bear a child or children (as their insensitivity carries them).
7. No Medical Value
FGM is medically famous for having a zero value to the health of the individual. In fact some of the very reasons that the tradition claims that it serves have become in practical reality, curses and irreparable damages for people. “It’s supposed to tame women and make child-bearing easy” but the reverse is the case. It has done absolutely zero of the things it purportedly set out to do; all it has done is invent and compound health/mental issues for women.
8. Gender Discrimination
“Monitoring the sensuality of the woman”, “promoting purity and modesty”- the acclaimed reasons for FGM. It is a fact that aside traditional convention there is no clear history of FGM. Why it is widespread across nationalities we might not clearly trace except for religious purposes, in any case, a close analysis of this might simply point to the gender oppression of the African woman. Not one female victim can independently accept to go through with the procedure. Reason is simple, it is against human/women right. There are countless ways to propagate the lasting femininity and modesty of a woman without interfering in her natural biological make up. Worse still when the health problems rub off on the innocent newborns.
9. Psychological Trauma
The practice of the Female Genital mutilation in Africa is an all round traumatic roller-coaster which has succeeded in dampening the self-esteem of young girls. The essence of the rites of adolescence is to welcome them into a new and vital stage of life, but on a close look, the essence of this rite would have been defeated as the girls give up the belief in the respect for human life or even begin that phase of life with a bleeding heart, mind and body.
At a very early stage in life, the thought of the rite is already a source of scare. The closer they are to that ‘special’ age, the more frightening the looming reality is for the girls. For fear of teases and the stigma of being tagged ‘unclean’, or most of the times the pressure to please family members, they become depressed with thoughts, every thing weighs down on the mind. Already such a person is unfit for any form of surgery but as ignorantly intimidating as the rural societies are, they go on with it; with the effect that after the procedure the girls who are lucky to be alive face twice the trauma they faced before the treatment; they come out worse than they were in terms of psycho-health. Going through this rough patch is nowhere near easy, how much more when you have to deal with the series of health complications that come with it.
The African society is typically conservative, so it might be hard to get the girls to speak up or even see the need to. Already everyone around them thinks tradition is supreme and always right, so who then can they talk to? And even after marriage, the fear and willingness to fulfill sexual duties lingers on plus they are constantly withdrawn.
10. Death Warrant
The Psycho-physiological consequences of this traumatic and shocking experience leaves a great deal of dent in the formation and personality of the African girl child; and without any psychiatric and health attention, might be an obvious death warrant. Life after FGM is not the way to be for any woman.