Sunday, 7 June 2015
FGM Female Genital Mutilation, what it is, what it is not, why you should care and what can you do about it.
So what is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)? FGM is the complete or partial removal of the external female genitalia. Some may claim that it is often no different then male circumcision. The reality is much different. Some argue that it is a cultural issue and no business of anyone else's to comment on another culture's practices. But this argument ignores the fact that any time we identify a cultural practice as demonstrably harmful to an individual, group of people and/ or society as a whole we should make efforts to stop such practices.
FGM falls under all 3 of those categories. It is clearly harmful to the individual. Any procedure done against the will of an individual that is for non-medical reasons falls under this category. Even if the girls are "talked into it" they are often to young to understand the ramifications of the decision and the pain, both short and long term, that they will have to endure. The practice is demonstrably harmful to all women because its sole use is as a tool to oppress women. To literally make sex unpleasurable for women and remind them that they are the property of men. Finally it is demonstrable that it is harmful to society as a whole because we see time and time again that when women are oppressed in societies those societies do not do as well. Societies where women are treated as equals have higher quality of living then those that do not. The most successful way you can help a community flourish is to empower the women of those community and that includes giving them reproductive autonomy.
Now to the specifics to demonstrate that this isn't just a form of "female circumcision". The most minor version of FGM most closely resembles male circumcision. Some apologists will claim this is the most common form but while the removal of the clitoral hood would be anatomically the same as a male circumcision, the reality is this rarely ever happens. So Type 1 is normally the removal of the hood and the clitoris. This is like saying that instead of a male having their foreskin removed they had not only the foreskin removed but at least the whole head of the penis. Anatomically it it more like chopping off the entire penis. And this is the most minor version of FGM performed.
More severe versions of FGM removal of the labia minora, the "inner lips". This is called type 2 FGM. Type 2 can even include removal of the labia majora. To shock you even further there are a total of 4 types each worse then the previous with varing amounts of damage being done in each level. Type 3 includes actually sewing up the remaining vaginal orifice.
There are other procedures done with FGM in various regions. This includes cauterizing or even removal of tissue not by cutting but by abrasion. Think of it like this. A doctor says "We need to remove your hand." then whips out a large file and starts at the tips of your finger.
While some procedures are done to babies, who won't remember the procedure, many are done to little girls around the age of 5. Most procedures are, in fact, done to girls between the age of 7 and 10. Pretty much always these are done with absolutely no anesthetic.
FGM has further complications and results in an extra 1-2% in perinatal deaths. Death rates from the actual procedure is recorded at 2.3%. Compare this to the most overblown rates of death from males circumcision which is less then 0.009% or over 255 times less likely. The more accepted numbers for deaths do to male circumcision is between 0 and 1 in 500,000 which means FGM is over 10,000 times more deadly.
Do you think this is just a problem of Muslims? Nigeria has the highest rates of FGM and the occurrence in the Christian community is higher both in number and percentages. Do you think it is only a problem in Africa? A 2015 study estimates that over a half a million females in the USA are at risk of or have undergone FGM and that number is up from about 228,000 women in 2000. It is illegal, thankfully, in the USA under 18 U.S. Code 116 - Female genital mutilation. But this does not help girls when they go back to their parent's country of origin on holiday. While it is illegal here the parents are not subject to prosecution if it is done overseas. The Girls Protection Act of 2010 tried to address this issue and was cosponsored by 156 democrats and 21 republicans. The republican controlled Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations blocked it from going to a vote. I have no idea why they would prevent this bill from going to vote. I can guess that the oppression of women is just part of most of their world view when you look at their voting records.
The problem needs to be brought to light. Legislation needs to be enacted to protect those women in the USA from this practice. More broadly we need to apply political and social pressure to stop this practice that at the end of the day serves no other purpose then to oppress women. Something that in 1915 should not have been acceptable let alone 2015. I encourage everyone to research this topic. If you keep your head in the sand on the issue then that is your choice. But as with all bad positions you hold it reflects on the type of person you are. Yes I'm trying to guilt you into action because staying silent on issues like this is unacceptable in my opinion.
Read more about FGM here World Health Organisation
Google "FGM charity" to find were you can go to help. Here is one article that lists 16 various organisations trying to tackle this issue.