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How Female Genital Mutilation Is An Attempt To Control Women’s Sexuality

Trigger Warning: Mention of Sexual Violence

Female genital mutilation (FGM), is referred as female genital cutting and female circumcision, which is a custom of castration or removing of small or large amount of all of the external parts of a women vagina.

The practice is originated in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, in different communities from several countries. UNICEF has observed in 2016 that over 200 million women living in about 30 different regions, most of which are African communities and also include Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen, practice this false religious custom and culturally promote it.

Representational image. Photo: UNICEF

This practice is commenced by a traditional circumciser using blades and other local tools; FGM is practiced on women immediately after birth, puberty or beyond that. If we observe the given data from different countries, then most of the women have undergone this practice before or after the age of 5 years old.

This practice is carried out through multiple methods with every community having their own way. It includes removing of the clitoral hood and clitoral glans, cutting of the inner labia, and cutting of the inner and outer labia as well as the closure of external parts like vulva.

In the last stage of FGM, there is a process known as infibulation which means only a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid; the vagina is only used for penetrative sex and reproduction. This culturally promoted practice is an attempt to control women’s sexuality and their bodily autonomy which hampers and disrupts their ideologies regarding purity, celibacy and beauty standards.

It is commonly promoted and commenced by women because they have a fear of letting their daughters fall prey to societal exclusion.

Review Of Literature

Female Genital Mutilation

[Kowser Omer-Hashi & Marilyn R. Entwistle. Published by: Canadian Public Health Association]

This article starts with this statement that over 100 million women worldwide have undergone FGM.

In this, condition of FGM in Canada is stated and also that how in Toronto, a metropolitan city, community groups have estimated 70,000 immigrants from Somalia and 10,000 immigrants from Nigeria has confirmed the normalisation of FGM in their respective countries. The major reason to practice FGM is to control women’s sexuality and reproduction.

FGM is also justified with many irrational reason related to religion, cultures and traditions. Men also pay high dowry for women who have undergone FGM but these men are not aware from the health problems related to FGM. It is also said that if men get proper education regarding FGM they can act as a vital part in prevention from FGM but for that health awareness campaigns are important.

Law should also participate by making FGM illegal as Canada did. World Health Organisation also states that no doctor should practice FGM but individual support is also needed. Awareness should be the first step through literacy classes, also mutual aid and self help networks should be developed for the victims and to be victims but this can only be achieved if all the communities come together to fight against FGM.

Representational image. Photo: UNICEF/Holt

As this is a fact that FGM victims suffer soon after the process or even after some years of this practice, they can also get infected by different viruses like HIV/AIDS. So, cultural awareness is required as lack of privacy is felt by the victims. To overcome FGM it should be taught through history as well.

No end in sight (Female mutilation unabated)

[Rebecca Buckwalter, published by-Harvard international Review]

FGM is banned in 14 countries of Africa but only Comoros, Libya and Rwanda have ratified this protocol. Each year 15 million women and Girls go through FGM, these women are infected through tools used over and over again with different people. The main obstacles to eliminate FGM is poverty and traditions. It is also imposed on the victims through Islam and justified further.

As this myth is believed that FGM makes women more pure and kill their sexual desire, FGM is also promoted by the cutters who practice this heinous ritual on these women as their livelihood depends on it because each operation cost US$12.60.

The Children Act 2001 saved girls under the age of 18 but after the age of 18 they still become the victim from FGM. It is stated in the article that strong legislations and enforcement is needed to eliminate FGM. FGM has affected million of women across the globe, especially girls who are of age 4-10 years but few countries like Uganda has worked hard enough to drop FGM cases as it was outlawed by their constitution.

Uganda also takes one day per year to raise awareness against FGM. In Egypt also, the government is fighting a battle with the media to bring awareness about FGM. In Kenya, government is providing funds to the cutters to invest in other businesses rather than FGM but until all the 15 countries come together against FGM, there will be no strict action taken against FGM. It will only happen if African Union accepts Anti-FGM to eliminate FGM universally.

Way Forward

After analysing these readings and research on the issue, it brings me to a conclusion that FGM is still a long battle to be won as many people are still unaware of this social evil. This is a social and physical problem which needs immediate attention and prevention as millions of women and young girls are affected. Strict laws should be enforced on the people who practice it and worship this ill practice.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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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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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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Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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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