Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
At least 130 million women worldwide have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation, with another 2 million annually at risk of this degrading and dangerous practice.
Amnesty International has defined FGM as "the term used to refer to the removal of part, or all, of the female genitalia." It is a common event in 28 African nations and also occurs in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and in European countries with large immigrant populations from these regions.
There are four types of FGM, ranked by extremity. They range from the amputation of the clitoris to the most extreme form in which the clitoris, labia minora and the inner surface of the labia majora are completely removed, and the raw edges of the labia majora are fused together using thorns or stitches to hold them in place. Most of these operations are done with crude tools like broken glass, tin lids or razor blades, with no anesthetic in non-sterile conditions by people with no formal medical training. In some countries, however, there are an increasing number of health professionals, trained midwives and physicians willing to perform the surgery.
There are a variety of social, psychological, cosmetic and cultural reasons why FGM occurs, but it is mostly performed as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood and is undertaken in most communities between the ages of four and 14 years to maintain chastity and improve a girl's marriage prospects.
Contrary to popular belief, the Koran of Islam does not contain any directive regarding FGM, and there is no religious justification for the practice in any of the orthodox texts of any religion.
FGM poses not only a human rights issue but a serious health issue as well. Beyond drastically limiting normal bodily functions and destroying the capacity for sexual pleasure, genital mutilation can cause scarring, infection and long-term physical and psychological complications. It can sometimes lead to death.
Although this despicable practice has been condemned by the United Nations, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, it continues to be practiced in many countries around the world.
Actions, Information & Opportunities to Help
There are many websites, both comprehensive and single-issue, dedicated to informing and analyzing issues related to Female Genital Mutilation. Also listed below are resources that offer help, some theoretical sociological works, cultural studies and multiple published news articles and campaign information pieces.
-World Health Organization - FGM: Factsheet
-Political Asylum and FGM
-The FGC Education and Networking Project
-Feminist Majority Foundation - Feminist News Stories on FGM
-Muslim Women's League Position Paper on FGM