Female Genital Mutilation has been severally defined by the World Health Organization as the process in which some part of the genital organ of a woman is removed or adjusted for some reasons unknown to medical ethics, principles and professionals (Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers (U.S.), 1981). There are several forms of mutilations, the two most spread of which are: removal or a partial cutting of clitoris and removal of labia – an organ found next to clitoris. The latter is used in over eighty percent of all FGM cases reported, while the removal of clitoris is spread in some North African communities. In other communities, for example in Somali, East Africa, the girls are demanded to have the orifice reduced by the process called infibulation. According to WHO statistics, this method is used in more than 15% of the cases reported to medical doctors (Ricci & Kyle, 2009). Other communities and most of the Southern Africa prick or even scratch the genital parts several times leaving a special kind of marks. These marks symbolize a progressive moving from childhood to adulthood.
Traditionally, some group of women selected within the community and given the mandate to mutilate performed FGM. Needless to say, the procedures were extremely dangerous, as the women had no medical skills, and to make the matter worse, they often used blunt tools such as knifes, scissors and even nails. In order to reduce bleeding and pain of the victims, some traditional herbs were applied on the genitals. However, such painkillers are rather doubtful, as, while they helped some of the mutilated girls, they also caused serious complications in others. In contrast, nowadays FGM is carried out in hospitals by professional medics. This is because of the great wave of changes the world faced recently, with the anti genital mutilation activists have decided to fight the culture by educating the communities on the dangers linked to the ritual.
Indeed, the research analysis reveals that the activity has caused a lot of suffering for most of the females. This is because children below the age of one year, adolescent girls and even infants are subjected to FGM. According to researchers and even activists, it was found that FGM is a threat to Human rights, and moreover, to child and women sexual rights. These rights include the female right for body integrity, life and personal individualism. It was also found that the practices of FGM greatly violate the female rights for good health and full benefits from the scientific medical achievements.
The Origin of FGM
FGM is believed to have been introduced almost five centuries ago in Egypt, and later this culture spread to Rome, Italy and then to England. In England, pit was found to be practiced with the aim to ensure female infidelity, masturbation or increased epilepsy. Africans adopted this cultural activity few centuries ago and they did practice it for several ethnic reasons. A research carried out by WHO revealed the main reasons for its practices varied from one tribe to the other.
First, there are communities that claim that mutilated women usually have a much higher level of fidelity than the non-mutilated ones (Pipher, 1994). Most of the Arabic nations practiced FGM mainly for this reason, as explained by El Saawadi in her book titled “Women in Arabic World”.
Secondly, we found that another reason why a community subjected its girls to FGM is because they thought that it is a part of their culture and a form of cultural transition of a woman from childhood to adulthood. Those who refused to honor the practice were seen as outcasts in the society and such women never got married. This led them to psychological tortures, and, as a result, these women agree to undergo the procedure. The story”Women in Arabic World” depicts this clearly.
Lastly, it was found that most of the communities where FGM was practiced were behind having men’s sex satisfaction. Men claimed that they felt sexually satisfied with these women. Others said that it was a form of cleanliness and that the tradition should continue.
It important to note that female from different parts of the world had different approaches or rather the opinion about the FGM. This is because of the cross-cultural conflicts that exist between the west and the east cultures. The fact is that whichever way the two region view the issue, it’s a culture that need to done away with and ensure there is a cultural solidarity. The strength of this paper is that it will strongly argue against the FGM looking the side effects both short term and the long term and recommendation for the same. However, the paper will not put any weight to the positive effects of the FGM as seen by those who practice it. The sociological argument is to establish whether the FGM is a rite of passage .From the definition of rite of passage, FGM cannot be considered a rite of passage. Rites of passage prepare a person for new roles in the society and signify change of status. This is not achieved through the FGM.
Impact of FGM on Women’s Health
From the research conducted by Sierra Leone, most of the women who have undergone the female circumcision need a great medical attention (Ricci & Kyle, 2009). This is because of the effects and the consequences of the FGM act. Female circumcision has physical and physiological effects on the affected person, regardless of her age. The magnitude or the level of the effect depends on a number of factors including the nature of the mutilation, the kind of tools used, the environment in which the operation is conducted, the efficiency and the skills of the operator, and the physical reaction of the person being circumcised.
The consequences of female circumcision are obvious immediately after the operation. They can be grouped into long- and short-term consequences. The short-term consequences are obvious immediately after the act or in few hours and may continue for about ten days .The long-term effects are actually lifelong effects, they cannot be reversed and demand medication to reduce their impact .However, lack of proper medical facilities and ignorance of most of the women who experienced FGM have hindered them from getting a proper medical help.
The FGM act usually causes shock, severe bleeding and a lot of pain that sometimes is not bearable by some patients and can end up with collapsing (Kanywani, 2004). The operator in most cases does not sterilize the items or tools that are used. Thus, cutting of the most sensitive parts of the women’s body is not done professionally or in humane way. This results in a great pain and a lot of bleeding. When the act is done, it makes the patient feel a lot of pain and hence causes urinary retention. This may result into tissue swelling and even damage of the urethra. This, in turn, may lead to infections on the urinary tract.
Another possible short-term effect is caused by the use of the poor and unsterilized tools and includes a multitude of complications. In fact, this can even lead to death (Yakubu et al., 2007). The use of tools for multiple patients may cause transmissions of viruses like HIV. In addition, most of the operators use dirty and unhygienic tools, which may cause blood poisoning or tetanus and may eventually lead to death. Moreover, some of the inexperienced operators can make some mistakes, which result in patients having complications or damages in other parts of the body like the anus, bladder and urethra.
Life- Long Consequences (Long Term Effects)
Female circumcision cause more long-term effects than short-term effects (Jensen, 2011). The victims are disturbed by the act psychologically up to the time of their death. The long-term consequences require medication in case the woman’s life has to be secured. As a rule, the operation reduces the urinary outlet, making a complete emptying of urine difficult. As a result, accumulation of the urine in the bladder causes several urinary infections.
In addition, female mutilation causes accumulation of blood and urine in the uterus resulting into very painful menstruation (Pribyl, Mayer-Hohdahl, O%u0308sterreichischer Rundfunk., & Films for the Humanities & Sciences (Firm), 2005). Moreover, the reduced size of the vagina makes child bearing difficult and very painful. It may also result into complications for the infant, such as kike brain damage or even death. In case of the obstructed delivery, there is a prolonged and delayed labor pain when the child is pushing on the scar.
Another negative FGM effect is the loss of women’s sexual sensitivity. This may result in problems in the marriage relationships. The feelings and the interest during sexual intercourse are abscent or reduced. This is because the soft and delicate genital tissues are turned into tough scar. This makes penetration difficult and the whole exercise becomes very painful act for women, especially during the first several weeks of marriage.
Another fact proving the procedure negative impact is that the highest maternal and infant mortality rates are in FGM practicing regions. The number of girls who die because of this practice cannot be named with certainty, but it is claimed that one third of victims die, especially in areas where antibiotics are not available.
In 2007, the International Medical Advisory Panel (IMAP) tabled a research paper that revealed how, why and in what ways the Female Genital Mutilation has negatively impacted the lives of most of the African and Arabic women. Several recommendations were outlined on how to combat this human right violation practices, especially in our HIV/AIDS era.
Firstly, the research encouraged the governments of the societies where FGM is practiced to carry out adequate researches on the ways of life of these people. It also strived to promote some sustained mitigation actions in order to combat the practice.
Secondly, it was stated that the society must be educated on the consequences that can be caused by FGM as a cultural practice. The society was encouraged to abandon the culture by promoting education to all and by having cultural interactions. In addition, the society needs to know how HIV/AIDS can be contracted through the practice. This can possibly help the community in avoiding FGM. Through education, the communities can drop some of the religious and cultural myths they possess about the importance of FGM.
Moreover, the report and other researches carried out revealed that strict government policies can also help to save most of the females from being mutilated. These policies can help to mitigate the practice. Thus, laws aimed to prohibit the practice need to be passed in the parliaments and fully implemented. United Nation Declaration of 2000 reveals that it is essential to include the men in the process by educating them about the need to have behavioral and cultural changes. In addition, women and even girls should not be left behind the process as they are the most vulnerable group.
Finally, it was recommended that referral centers and children homes for those who have been mutilated and those who run away from the incident must be constructed to house them away from the community and to provide psychological guidance on how to live for those who were or were not subjected to the practice.
Female Genital Mutilation must be combated, as it often costs healths or even lives of women. It is the high time for the governments, the NGOs and the society to join against FGM, which is so prevalent that people do not fear that its increasing the chances of HIV/AIDS contraction (Subayi, Toubia, Hussein & Rogo, 2007). The above-mentioned consequences should be avoided through implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations. Everyone should remember that we can have a FGM-free world, as well as HIV/AIDs-free nations through implementing the presented policies.