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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) affects up to 140 million Women Globally

September 1, 2010
Nancy Koener / The Examiner

1. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is more than just the equivalent to male circumcision. It involves several variations of crude surgical procedures to alter the genitalia of young women and girls for reasons of culture, religious, or social practices for non-medical reason. There are no personal hygienic or health benefits.
2. Approximately 100 million to 140 million females are currently affected by the consequences of this practice. These complications include: shock, severe bleeding, short-term and long-term urinary tract infections, difficulty in passing urine, massive scarring, inability to experience orgasm, painful sexual intercourse, complications in childbirth and newborn fatalities from a externally-restricted birth passage. 
3. FGM is practiced on young girls between infancy and the age of 15. It is often associated the puberty rites. Sixty-five to ninety percent of affected women are from eastern, north-eastern, or far western regions of Africa.
4. The procedure consists of the removal of any combination of the clitoris, inner, and/or outer labia. It may be carried out by means of any sharp tool, including knives or even a piece of glass. It may also include the practice of infibulation.

And why is this considered a “domestic violence” issue? 
Because FGM stems from the result of social convention/cultural tradition and is implemented by family members, it is mothers and grandmothers who are largely responsible for enforcing the practice. Local religious authorities, community leaders, tribal practitioners, and “granny-midwives” are all advocates for perpetuation of FGM.
Young girls are raised to believe that FGM is part of a proper upbringing; it is part of becoming a woman. It is linked to what is considered proper sexual behaviour, virginity, and marital fidelity, designed to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. Girls are taught that FGM makes them “clean and beautiful,” by ridding themselves of external vestiges of “maleness” which are considered “unclean.”
Dr. Marci Bowers of Trinidad, CO, is a doctor specializing in gender reassignment and has been a key figure in reconstructive surgeries for victims of FGM. Dr. Bowers, who underwent gender reassignment herself in the 1990’s, feels a sense of kinship with the unfortunates who live with an overwhelming loss of identity. Some women did not even realize they were different until they relocated to the States and were examined by a gynecologist or saw textbook diagrams of unmodified women. Some have blocked out the horror of the experience; others remember it vividly.
[One client] said she was circumcised at age 11 by a village woman. She was with about a half dozen of her sisters and cousins. She was placed before the woman and was held down before being cut with what she thinks was a razor. She still remembers her screams."Nightmarish," she said. (from Associated Press Female - Circumcision victims seek out Colo. doctor)
In 2008, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution (WHA61.16) on the elimination of FGM, emphasizing the need for concerted action in all sectors - health, education, finance, justice and women's affairs.