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The Gruesome Procedure That Has Mutilated 140 Million Women Across The World

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By Stephanie Haase

Nigeria banned female genital cutting or female genital mutilation (FGC/FGM) last week. That is a huge step forward for women’s rights. But what is FGC? And what does the situation look like elsewhere?

female genital mutilation

1. It Happens Quite A Lot

As many as 140 million women around the world are cut; over 101 million of them live in Africa. In India FGC is practised widely among the Dawoodi Bohra community, a sect of Shia Muslims. It’s estimated that more than two million girls are still being cut every year; how many die of the complications related to the cut is unknown though. Girls are usually cut between the ages of four and puberty. But it can also happen much later, or just a few days after birth.

2. It’s Believed To Keep women clean

The reasons for parents wanting their daughters to be cut are mostly cultural. In many cultures in Northern, Eastern and Western Africa, being cut is a rite of passage for young girls and improves their chances of getting married. Others think that it’s more hygienic and that a girl or woman should be flat, rigid and dry. Religious beliefs also play a role. Some Christian and Muslim communities believe that the cut is related to teachings of their religions.

3. Not All Cuts Are The Same

There are four different types of FGC. In the first two, all or a part of the clitoris is removed. With the third type, which is also called ‘infibulation’, all of the clitoris and the inner and outer labia are removed. The fourth type is a variation of type 3, but goes one step further. Parts of the vagina may be stitched shut or tightened by using chemicals. Most of the cut women fall into categories 1 and 2; type 3 and 4 are most common in East Africa.

4. Things Can Go Wrong…

FGC can be dangerous and cause lifelong problems for the woman who has been cut. If the procedure is not done in a clean environment with clean medical tools, serious infections can be the result. They can even kill a girl or woman.

5. And They Can Continue To Go Wrong

Once the wounds are healed, there can be other problems. Women can have recurring urinary tract and vaginal infections, problems when menstruating, pain during sex and chronic pain in general. Being cut might make women more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well. Incontinence and cysts are common, too. FGC can also cause infertility.

6. Fistulas

And during childbirth, being cut is a real risk for both the baby and the mother. With type 3 and 4 FGC, the vagina can be too tight to allow the baby to pass through it. This can be a real danger for the mother and the baby. Prolonged, obstructed labour can cause death of the baby and fistulas in the mother. A fistula is a hole between the bladder and the vagina or the anus and the vagina. Fistulas lead to incontinence and other medical and social consequences.

7. It Doesn’t End After Childbirth

When having sex for the first time, or before giving birth, women who have had type 3 or 4 FGC have to be cut open in order for the penis to be able to enter the vagina, or for the baby to come out. Afterwards, the vagina is often stitched shut again. This is called ‘reinfibulation‘.

8. FGM Doesn’t Mean No Pleasure

For women who have been stitched shut, it can be hard to enjoy sex. The opening that is left is very small, too small often for a penis to enter without pain. Nevertheless, some women report having a normal and enjoyable sex life even with this kind of cut.

For the other FGC categories, it will be harder to reach orgasm than for women who haven’t been cut, because many women can get an orgasm most easily by stimulating the clitoris. But that doesn’t mean that if you don’t have an external clitoris, you won’t be able to have an orgasm. The outer part of the clitoris is only a small part of a much bigger organ. With an understanding and patient partner, you should be able to have an orgasm. It’s a matter of trying what you like and what makes you feel good.

9. Cuts Can Be Reversed

There is a procedure called ‘defibulation’ or ‘deinfibulation’. It is a surgery that reopens the vagina of women with type 3 and 4 FGC, restoring the vagina to its normal size. It might also mean some of the scar tissue is removed and the labia is restored.

There are even new techniques to restore the clitoris. Tissues of the clitoris from inside the vagina can be used to make a new clitoris on the outside. This is not done very often yet, though.

10. There Are Myths Too

One of the myths around FGC makes people believe that the cut will actually enhance a woman’s fertility and promote child survival. Another myth claims that cutting a girl will cure or prevent STDs like gonorrhoea.
It is believed that FGC will keep a girl or woman from having sex before marriage and that it increases a man’s pleasure.

This article was originally published here on Love Matters

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    What about the BILLIONS who face MALE GENITAL MUTILATION?

    Read my article on YKA

    http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2014/07/widespread-false-beliefs-circumcision-inhumane-practice-needs-stop/

    1. ItsJustMe

      @B I was just about post the same article here

    2. Blam

      What the hell about them? Blame the stupid ass father who in pretty much one hundred percent of the cases insists on it.
      Not to mention there is a religion with it at its cornerstone. Idiot.

    3. Jaspreet Sidhu

      ITS FUNNY HOW YOU REMEMBERED MALE GENITAL MUTILATION ONLY AFTER READING ABOUT FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION. This tells us that it is not as big a problem in your eyes so as to warrant a separate discussion. But you will throw it in the face of every one who wishes to talk about women rights. keep up the good work. You are the future of this country.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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