Female genital mutilation (FGM), or female circumcision, is a common practice in regions of Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. FGM usually involves the full or partial removal of the clitoris and/or labia or other injury to a young girl’s genital area for non-medical reasons. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 92 million girls 10 years old and up have undergone FGM, most of them having it performed sometime between infant age and 15 years old.
Globally, an estimated 140 million women and girls are living with the severe consequences of the procedure, which include excessive bleeding, infertility, sepsis, cysts, painful intercourse, increased newborn mortality, emotional pain, etc. There are no health benefits to these procedures. FGM is maintained by some cultures as an effective means of controlling female sexuality and taming female libido.
In 2008, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to end FGM practices worldwide, and several African nations have since banned the practice. Uganda placed a ban on FGM in 2009 and Egypt outlawed the procedure in 2008 but despite such efforts to curb the act, there is widespread lack of compliance with these laws; laws which inadvertently lead to more frequent and more dangerous acts of FGM. For example, in Egypt, where approximately 90% of the women have been victims of FGM, the ban has proved highly ineffective and is actually resulting in a higher mortality rate since parents are reluctant to take their post-FGM daughters to hospitals to treat heavy bleeding and infections, for fear of being reported and imprisoned. Equally disturbing: according to WHO, nearly 20% of all FGM procedures are performed by health professionals in clinical settings.Though this may ensure a safer and more hygienic procedure, it is unsettling to think that doctors find such procedures morally acceptable.
FGM is not just a problem in the developing world; according to Amnesty International, there are approximately 500,000 women living with effects of FGM in Europe and 180,000 more women at risk each year. In support of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on February 6, 2012, the Amnesty International European campaign against FGM created a video in order to raise awareness:
The campaign also provides a strategy for ending FGM in Europe:
- Collection of data on prevalence of FGM in Europe
- Accessible and appropriate healthcare for women living with FGM in Europe
- Better protection mechanisms to address violence against women and children
- Clear asylum guidelines for those under threat of FGM, and
- Mainstreaming of FGM in EU’s dialogues on cooperation with third countries where FGM is prevalent.