Female Genital Mutilation in Africa: why is this still a troubling issue in modern times?

In this blog post, the authors explore the issue of FGM, highlighting the work that still needs to be done to address this problem.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been a troubling global issue for decades, particularly in Africa and Asia. FGM is the removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. This practice is widely condemned around the world as it is considered a violation of girls’ and women’s human rights. It reflects deep-seated gender inequality and is an extreme form of discrimination against women.1 This practice is mostly carried out on minors, thus a violation of children’s rights. FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who frequently serve other important roles in their communities, such as attending childbirths. It is performed in many settings by health care providers who believe that medicalizing the procedure makes it safer. The World Health Organization(WHO) strongly advises health-care providers not to perform FGM. 1

According to the United Nations (UN) estimates, 200 million women and girls worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation, with Africa accounting for 80% of cases. This dangerous practice affects an estimated 55 million girls under the age of 15 in 28 African countries. 2 FGM is mostly practiced in countries in central, northern, western, and eastern Africa. Also, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in 2006, eight of the 54 African countries had a FGM incidence of more than 80%. Somalia had the highest incidence of 98%, followed by Guinea, Djibouti, and Egypt, all of which had an incidence of more than 90%. Eritrea, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Sudan have incidence rates of 80% or higher. 2

FGM has caused both short and long-term complications, as far as the death of young females. During the procedure, most young females can experience a state of shock. The majority of them also experience excruciating pain, excessive bleeding, and swelling of the genital tissue. When unsterile and rusted tools are used to cut the flesh of multiple girls, the risk of HIV and other infections increases. Furthermore, these young females suffer from long-term complications such as scarring, cysts, infertility, difficulty and pain when menstruating, urinating, or engaging in sexual intercourse. Greater still, their  psychological ramifications cannot be overlooked. 3

The world’s efforts to combat FGM in recent years have been greatly laudable. Since 1997, changes in public policies, research, and work within societies have played a significant role in combating FGM. Some of the tools used to combat FGM include a joint program on FGM/Cutting launched by UNFPA and UNICEF in 2007 to accelerate the practice’s abolition. 4In 2008, the WHO issued an interagency statement titled “Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation” with 9 other UN partners to support increased advocacy for FGM eradication.

In collaboration with the Somali Women’s Democratic Organization(SWDO), the Italian Association for Women and Development (AIDOS) established an eradication project in Somalia in 1987. SWDO organized a campaign to raise awareness and educate the public, including religious leaders in the country who played a significant role in the practice, about why the practice was harmful to women and girls. 4 The Egyptian government has decided to impose prison sentences of up to 20 years in order to put an end to the practice of FGM, and the perpetrator will be imprisoned. Kenya has launched a Presidential Plan of Action to end FGM by 2022, and Sudan has passed long-awaited anti-FGM legislation. 5

With the serious implications and threats that FGM still poses, more should be done to address the situation. In countries and communities where FGM is practiced, there should be effective and innovative educational and sensitization programs. Advocacy against FGM should not be left solely in the hands of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), rather, states should lead advocacy against FGM through their appropriate and legally mandated agencies, as well as the total abolition of this barbaric and dehumanizing practice.

Since FGM practices are typically rooted in religious and socio-cultural beliefs in the practising communities, it is critical for NGOs/CSOs to embark on the re-orientation of religious and social cultural practices in relation to FGM. Influential leaders, such as celebrities, traditional and religious leaders, should be included in the advocacy and re-orientation process if the desired goals of combating FGM in places where it is practiced are to be met.

It is also critical to provide victims with rehabilitation, mental health support, and other health services if they have suffered psychological trauma as a result of the process.

FGM is barbaric, dangerous, and dehumanizing to the dignity of womanhood and humanity in general, in this modern era as it was in the past. The practice must be prohibited in the future. It should be illegal everywhere it is practiced, with severe penalties imposed on those who engage in such dehumanizing behavior. Victims of FGM should receive appropriate and meaningful assistance.

 

REFERENCES

  1. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Female genital mutilation. World Health Organization. Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation
  1. A race against trends. UNICEF. (n.d.). Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.unicef.org/media/media_102559.html
  2. Obiora, O. L., Maree, J. E., & Nkosi-Mafutha, N. (2019, December 30). Female genital mutilation in Africa: Scoping the landscape of evidence. International Journal of Africa Nursing Sciences. Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214139119300617
  3. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (n.d.). Somalia: Report on Female genital mutilation (fgm) or female genital cutting (FGC). Refworld. Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.refworld.org/docid/46d5787c32.html
  4. UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation. UNICEF. (2020, February 5). Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.unicef.org/protection/unfpa-unicef-joint-programme-eliminating-fgm

 

AUTHORS

1. Ademeta Esther Oluwafeyisayo, 3rd year medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine – Main author

2. Esther Nansubuga is a 3rd Year Medical Student, studying at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom.

3. Abiola Asekun, a Nigerian 4th year international medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine

4. Owusu Yaa Asieduwaa, a 3rd year Doctor of pharmacy student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana.

5. Adeleke Oluwaseun Dorcas, 6th year medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine

6. Shekinah Obinna Amaka is a Nigerian 6th year medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine.

7. Wireko Andrew Awuah, 5th year medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine. Andrew is a medical student at Sumy State University. – Corresponding Author (andyvans36@yahoo.com)

8. Toufik Abdul-Rahman, a 5th year Medical student at Sumy State University and the CEO of Toufik’s World Organization.

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