Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."
FGM is typically carried out on girls from a few days old to puberty.
It may take place in a hospital, but is usually performed, without
anaesthesia, by a traditional circumciser using a knife, razor, or
scissors. According to the WHO, it is practiced in 28 countries in
western, eastern, and north-eastern Africa, in parts of the Middle East,
and within some immigrant communities in Europe, North America,
The WHO estimates that 100–140 million women and girls around the world
have experienced the procedure, including 92 million in Africa. The practice is carried out by some communities who believe it reduces a woman's libido.
The WHO has offered four classifications of FGM. The main three are Type I, removal of the clitoral hood, almost invariably accompanied by removal of the clitoris itself (clitoridectomy); Type II, removal of the clitoris and inner labia; and Type III (infibulation), removal of all or part of the inner and outer labia,
and usually the clitoris, and the fusion of the wound, leaving a small
hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood—the fused wound is
opened for intercourse and childbirth.
Around 85 percent of women who undergo FGM experience Types I and II,
and 15 percent Type III, though Type III is the most common procedure in
several countries, including Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti. Several miscellaneous acts are categorized as Type IV.
These range from a symbolic pricking or piercing of the clitoris or
labia, to cauterization of the clitoris, cutting into the vagina to
widen it (gishiri cutting), and introducing corrosive substances to tighten it.
Opposition to FGM focuses on human rights violations, lack of
informed consent, and health risks, which include fatal hemorrhaging,
epidermoid cysts, recurrent urinary and vaginal infections, chronic
pain, and obstetrical complications. Since 1979, there have been
concerted efforts by international bodies to end the practice, including
sponsorship by the United Nations of an International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, held each 6 February since 2003. Sylvia Tamale,
a Ugandan legal scholar, writes that there is a large body of research
and activism in Africa itself that strongly opposes FGM, but she
cautions that some African feminists object to what she calls the
imperialist infantilization of African women, and they reject the idea
that FGM is nothing but a barbaric rejection of modernity. Tamale
suggests that there are cultural and political aspects to the practice's
continuation that make opposition to it a complex issue.
Reprinted with permission of www.private-shades.com