Female Genital Mutilation
Although female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal in many countries around the world, each year about three million girls are victims of this violence. Approximately 15% of victims die as a result – from bleeding or infections to long term consequences, such as complications in childbirth. Worldwide about 200 million women and girls live the the physical and psychological consequences.
There are three degrees of the practise; the first involves clipping the tip of the clitoris; the second is cutting the clitoris and labia minora; the third, also known as infibulation, is when the clitoris, labia minora and parts of the labia majora and removed and then sewn together, leaving only a small hole for urine and menstrual flow.
Female genital mutilation is deeply rooted in many cultures and traditions and is justified by many because it “protects female virginity.” Parents and community elders believe that removing the clitoris will suppress a woman’s urges for other men; it is a way of controlling her sexuality. In many cases, a woman who is not "cut" cannot get married and may be ostracized by society.
In most communities the perpetrator ("circumciser") is generally an older woman who does the procedure without any anesthesia. The conditions are extremely unhygienic – sometimes a single knife will be used to mutilate several different girls. Furthermore, a child not only endures physical pain but emotional and psychological, as she is held down against her will. It is absolutely essential that we stop genital mutilation. We need consistent enforcement and the cooperation of community and religious leaders. Only when we are able to address gender based violence and social inequities can we help improve the living conditions in developing countries.