According to World Health Organization (WHO), Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined as “ all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Different people, with different disciplines, have used about three terms to refer to the practice of removal of part of female genital for either traditional beliefs, values, and attitudes. Human rights groups and health advocates use the term Female genital mutilation (FGM) mainly to emphasize the effects that are associated with its practice which are, physical, emotional and psychological consequences.
Activists use the term Female genital cutting (FGC) putting emphasis on the dangers and lastly, another term used is Female circumcision (FC) which, does not include the harm that is associated with the practice. In other words, many activists believe that this term is misleading and ignores the invasive procedure associated with it because of the vivid comparison with the male circumcision regardless
The Origin of the tradition of Female Genital mutilation is not clearly known but its practice dates back at least 2000 years. Many people believe that FGM was commonly practiced in ancient Egypt representing a distinction amongst the aristocracy. Scholars believe that it mainly started during the rise of slave trade when women entered the Arab societies. Some people believe the foundations of FGM came with the arrival of Islam with a connection of Arabs in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Some believe that the practice developed within the different ethnic groups mainly in sub-Saharan Africa as a sign of puberty rites. They considered FGM as a way that ensured women’s virginity and reduces chances of fornication or reduces female desire.
Overall, the practice of FGM seems to route back to ties of Africa and the merge of Islam religion. It is clear to say this evolved within the primitive communities that wanted to exert power or control over women, particularly the sexual behavior of women. The practice of FGM relates to the technique the Romans performed on the women that involved “slipping of rings through the labia majora of the female slaves” to prohibit or stop them from getting pregnant. I understand, during the slave trade, both male and female slaves had to follow and do anything their masters ordered them to do. But in this modern generations( after the abolition of slave trade), with advanced education, presence of Universal Human rights, many activists sensitizing people about the importance of respecting and protecting Human rights and Countries all over the world working for a goal of promoting world peace, harmony for each person give these primitive communities a right to still continue performing FGM, what do they justify their actions with. Being a woman, to see other girls and women’s rights stripped from them, causing endless pain and unbearable consequences all in the name of prioritizing the traditional values, beliefs, and attitudes or with religious reason, it is just wrong and clear manifestation of gender inequality.
TYPES OF FGM
There are various ways or methods that are used for FGM in different parts of the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are FGM is classified with four types that describe the different processes or procedures used all over the world. “Type I; includes the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/ or prepuce.” This is also medically known as clitoridectomy, and it the most common type that is practiced in Iraqi Kurdistan. “Type II is a more invasive procedure that includes the partial or total removal of both the clitoris and the labia minora.” It is also known as excision and is mainly performed with or without the cutting of the labia majora. “Type III is the most severe type of FGM, it involves the narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the creation of a seal that is formed by cutting and then stitching the labia minora and/or the labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris.” This is also known as infibulation. Lastly, “Type IV includes pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.” This involves all the harmful procedures of the female genitalia. Internationally / Globally, Type I and II are the most famous or commonly practiced procedures of FGM and they account for about 85 percent of all the four types. Girls undergo these procedures between birth and at the age of 15, however, FGM is said to happen at all ages even at adulthood. In some cultures mostly in Africa, FGM is basically justified to initiate little girls into adulthood as a way of testing or to establish their marriageability.
WORLD PREVALENCE OF FGM
With reference to WHO, there are more than 140 million girls and women globally that experienced or undergone these procedures. Particularly in Africa, there are about 3 million and more girls at risk of undergoing this practice every year. In order to understand more about the term FGM and the reasons that justify this harmful practice, we have to explore the countries or places in the world in which FGM is practiced. According to World Health Organization (WHO), Female Genital Mutilation is practiced in more than 27 countries in the continent of Africa and in some parts of Asia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In the west, it is more common among the immigrants in North America, Europe, and Australia. In these countries, the practice of FGM is justified with references to the different socio-cultural factors. People from the communities these claim that the practice is rooted in local culture and this traditional ritual is passed on from one generation to another. Preservation of culture and cultural identity are the “underlying impetus for continuing the practice. Other justifications are related to gender roles and “perceptions of women and girls as gatekeepers of their family’s honor” which is linked to the “strict expectations regarding women’s sexual ‘purity’ and lack of desire”.
“Female Genital Surgeries: The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable” – the article discusses the genital surgeries and the different harmful effects of such practices, particularly looking at the health complications and the severe impacts to a woman’s sexuality. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not something new in this modern age, it is a practice that has lived for many generation and years way back. Many different cultures all over the world carry out these traditional surgeries that are performed on a woman’s genital area. Many people have urged that such practices deprive women of their rights, these include scholars, religious leaders, doctors, policymakers, activists, Lawyers and ethicists to mention but a few, have condemned the practice of FGM for the past decades. They have all worked hard in the different fields to an end of such cruel acts to women in light of protecting their rights. Medical experts have advocated for the end of these procedures because of the extremely harmful effects that are left with young girls and women who undergo this practice and not only physical effects but also mental health effects. Furthermore, Feminist researchers in different fields argue “female genital surgeries are a manifestation of gender inequalities and patriarchy in the societies where they are found.” Pg 79 Anthropologists are more inclined towards a relativist viewpoint that “cultural relativism” has its limits. This is where a line has to be drawn that makes people believe in the ideology of protecting culture values over universal human rights. “Cultural relativism has its limits, and [that this is] one issue where [one] ought to draw the line” (Konner 1990:5) Pg. 80
There has been an international agenda to condemn and vote to eradicate these practices. The main Key elements that were used to have a consensus on this issue were; the “perception of their global dimension; that states that an estimated number of 129 million girls and women have been heavily affected by the surgeries, secondly; all of the girls and women that undergo this practice have suffered severe consequences. The medical terminology of the act of excision of the clitoris is “pharaonic circumcision or infibulation and the removal of the clitoris is Clitoridectomy. Some refer FGM as cultural practices that consist all different types of female genitalia from Clitoridectomy or removing the front part of the clitoris up through infibulation or removal of all if the external female genitalia that includes part of the Vagina using various methods. (Pg 4-6 Fisaha Kg 2016) However, the techniques that the practitioners use change in different regions over time. The local terminologies of these practices pose a great deal in the hindrance of stopping the practices. For example, in Arabic, the terminology for circumcision (for both females and males) is referred to as Khitan or Tahara or tahur which are commonly used in both Egypt and Sudan. The words mean purification; for both the surgery and the ceremony that is associated with its completion and the “idea of both hygiene and religious purification”. “ The less extensive operations are commonly called sauna” that is derived from the traditions practiced by prophet Muhammad.
As for the Muslims, the term clitoridectomy is referred to as “khifad” or “reduction” and is always connected to a belief that if the clitoris is not reduced, it can grow into a penis;