The World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation (FGM) as any procedure that intentionally alters or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. These procedures have absolutely no health benefits for girls or women and often lead up to severe bleeding, urination problems, later cysts, infections, complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
It is verified that the procedure has been carried out on more than 125 million girls and women, who are spread across 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where its most concentrated. It’s often carried out whilst the girls are young, a coming of age ceremony of some sort that catches girls sometime before they turn 15. This practice in all its ramifications is considered a human rights violation on girls and women which must be looked at quite frankly as an affront to any nations current level of civilization.
In a landmark Australian case which had its sentencing hearing on Friday, the biggest victory against female genital mutilation (FGM) to date may have been won. A former midwife Kubra Magennis, 72, and the mother of the victims, who cannot be named, were convicted in November of mutilating two young girls in separate FGM procedures. One of the girls had testified to undergoing the procedure, called “khatna”, a ceremony which girls from the Dawoodi Bohra community typically undergo when they are seven years old. A third offender,who is the community leader Shabbir Mohammedbhai Vaziri, was found guilty of acting as an accessory after the fact by directing some people to lie to police about the procedure and practice.
The crown prosecutor of the case, Nanette Williams who believes that full-time imprisonment is the only appropriate punishment to dissuade future FGM practices told the court; “Available evidence strongly suggests this was never any form of benign procedure…It has to do with a sexual repression of women to make them more marriageable.”
Disturbing new statistics compiled by UNICEF have shown that over 70 million more girls and women, more than was estimated in 2014 have undergone ritual cutting of FGM with half of them existing in just three countries. The discrepancy was due to a raft of new data collected in Indonesia, which still has a high prevalence of the practice despite a ban in 2006. In the analysis which was published to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, the statistics showed that out of the 30 countries studied, women in Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia account for half of the FGM victims worldwide. Somalia has the highest prevalence of women and girls who have been cut – 98% of the female population between the ages of 15 and 49.
The reports lead author, Claudia Cappa comments that the new findings show that FGM is a global issue rather than one that is solely perpetuated in Africa (which has been the focus all this while). She continues, “The risk of being subjected to the practice is going down, because of changing attitudes, but the numbers are increasing because the global population is rising. That makes elimination even more challenging and current efforts are not enough to combat this growth. FGM is happening in every continent, especially with the migration of people from traditional communities into other countries.”
Appropriate campaigns and positive mainstream discussion towards combating FGM must increase as the effects of this practice don’t simply end with the momentary pain that these girls undergo during the process, but actually in life situations last them an entire lifetime, even completely robbing some of them of a chance at life. Stop Female Genital Mutilation!