Tomorrow is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, a day set aside to raise awareness about the practice of Female Genital Mutilation and the goal of eliminating it by 2030.
Here are nine things you should know about this Satanic practice that harms women and girls around the globe. [Warning: Although the language is not graphic, the descriptions of the practice are disturbing. Also, you should stop reading if you’re offended by mentions of female body parts.]
1. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or complete removal of a girl’s external genitals for non-medical reasons. The reasons for the practice appear to transcend cultures and religions, and are deeply rooted in ancient customs (some mummies from ancient Egypt show evidence of FGM) and social control over women’s bodies. There are no health benefits to FGM, and because the girl’s body is physically harmed by the removal of healthy tissue, the practice is recognized internationally as a human rights violation.
2. FGM is sometimes called Female Genital Cutting (FGC), Female Circumcision (FC), or excision. Many communities in which FGM occurs also use local names to refer to this practice, including the Arabic terms “Tahor” or “Sunna.” These terms are sometimes used to avoid offending cultural sensibilities and to avoid the perception that the practice is always forced on women. In some communities in which the FGM occurs, elderly women often do the most to perpetuate the custom.
3. In communities where FGM occurs, most girls are cut before they turn 14 years of age. Some girls, however, are cut in infancy. As the Orchid Project notes, “In some areas of Ethiopia, for example, girls are often cut at just nine days old, and in half the countries in which FGC is practiced most girls undergo the procedure before the age of 5.” They add that, “In the Central African Republic, Egypt, Chad, and Somalia about 80 percent of girls are cut between 5 and 14, often in relation to coming-of-age rituals and the marking of their passage into adulthood.”
4. The first type of FGM is clitoridectomy. This type entails the partial or total removal of the clitoris and, in rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
5. The second type of FGM is excision. This type entails the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.
6. The third type of FGM is infibulation. This type involves narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris. The remaining skin is sewn or sealed together leaving a tiny hole for menstrual blood and urine.
7. The other types of FGM involve a variety of other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.
8. FGM is often performed with razor blades or knives and without sterilized equipment or anesthetic. In some urban areas, however, medically trained personnel may perform the FGM.
9. Between 100 million and 140 million girls and women across the globe have either been subjected to FGM or at risk of being affected. The practice is most prevalent in Africa (where it occurs in at least 28 countries), parts of the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. FGC also happens in diaspora communities, including communities in the United States.
Other articles in this series:
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