FGM-Female genital mutilation is a practice which can be traced to the stone age era. It can also be referred to as female circumcision or female genital cutting. The act is common in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Female genital mutilation can be likened to a ritual which involves the removal of a part or the whole section of the female external genitalia.
The act is carried out by using a traditional blade which will be engaged by the circumciser at a specific time and age of the girl. Different communities where this is practiced have their peculiar schedule based on the culture or religion. While most girls are cut before the age of five, others are cut at infancy or immediately they reach puberty.
Various countries and ethnic groups where female genital mutilation is practiced have their technique and procedure.
It has been in man to control women’s sexuality which is a clear reflection of gender inequality in the society. The practice of female genital mutilation is rooted in the sense that men are superior to women and every attempt must be made to mitigate their pride and self-expression by controlling their sexuality.
Female genital mutilation has been described by the Supreme Court of India as a violation of Article 15 & 21 of the constitution which protects the right to life and freedom of expression and total abhors any discriminatory acts against persons on the grounds of sex, race, place of birth or caste.
The practice of female genital mutilation is yet to be banned in India and is very much prevalent in the Borha community and has serious negative impact on the girl child.
WHAT IS FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION?
Female genital mutilation is the removal of parts of the vaginal organs such as the clitoral hood, clitoral glans, inner and outer labia as an attempt to control the sexuality of the women. Women and young girls are made to believe it is an act of honour so that they can willingly participate in the act while most young girls are tricked by the mother or guardian to force the practice on them.
WHAT MAKES THIS BRUTAL ACT TO BE INFLICTED ON FEMALES?
The clitoris is designed to offer pleasure to the woman during sex. The level of pleasure or pain a woman can receive at sex depends on the sensitivity of her clitoris. The clitoris has more nerve terminations than any other part of the female body; hence, the necessity for its removal.
Female genital mutilation or ‘Khatna’ is mostly carried out by removing some parts of the clitoris. This is rooted in the belief of sheer narrow-minded, uneducated and gender-biased people that the clitoris organ is an ‘unwanted skin’ which can lead a woman to sin if it is not removed and the innocent girls become the victims of such obnoxious mindset of the society and forcibly are subjected to the horrifying process of FGM.
Over the centuries, it is a common believe among the Borha community people that if a woman is aware of the pleasure that can be received through the clitoris, there is the tendency that she will be promiscuous in marriage and will bring shame to her people.
WHO DOES THE CUTTING OF THE CLITORIS?
The procedure is often carried out by local midwives or old women of the community. In most cases, these midwives do not possess the minimum training that would qualify them to perform such tasks. A knife or a sharp blade is used for the procedure on young girls mostly between the ages of sic to ten just before their puberty. This procedure is often performed without any anesthesia and the devices used are mostly not sterilized before and after its application. One blade can be used in more than thirty girls which can increase the risk of infections.
ARE THERE ANY HEALTH BENEFITS OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION?
NOT AT ALL! more harm is done on the health of a woman who has gone through the procedure.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF FGM?
As we had said earlier, female genital mutilation has no health benefit to the woman; rather, it is harmful. The procedure determines the health effect that the woman would suffer which include:
- Recurring infections
- Difficulty in getting pregnant
- Difficulty in urinating
- Pains during menstrual discharge
- Complications at childbirth
- Serious pain and bleeding
- Development of cyst.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION?
The types of female genital mutilation depend on the amount of flesh that is cut in the process. The type 1, 2 & 3 is based on the nature of flesh that is removed and type 4 is based on other random processes including nicking.
TYPE I: This is the partial or complete cutting of the clitoris. It has two types namely I(a) and (b). In Type I(a) only the clitoral hood is removed. The use of this procedure is very rare. Type I(b) which is also called clitoridectomy is a more common procedure. This involves the visible region of the clitoral gland and the clitoral hood. During this process, the visible tip of the clitoris is pulled up by the circumciser using her fingers and then it is completely removed.
TYPE II: In this method, the inner labia are either completely or partly removed. The outer labia and the clitoral glans may or may not be removed. This procedure is grouped further into three which include: Type II(a) which is when the inner labia is removed, type II(b) where the inner labia and the clitoral glans are removed and type II(c) which involves the removal of the outer and inner labia, and the clitoral glans.
TYPE III: In this procedure, the external genitalia are removed and the wound is sewn closed. The clitoral glans will not be removed but the inner or the outer labia or both are removed. This type is mostly common in Ethiopia, Eritea, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia.
TYPE IV: this method involves other procedures that are non-medical but harmful to the female genitalia. In most cases, the act is done by any of this method which includes; scarring or burning, cauterizing, piercing, pricking and incising of the genitals. In addition to this, substances are then introduced into the vagina to ensure its tightening. The stretching of the labia is in this type. This is mostly practiced in South and East region of Africa. It is believed that the tighter the vagina, the more pleasurable sex will be for the man. In the country of Uganda, young girls are encouraged to stretch their labia to prevent them from having difficulties during childbirth. Many of these girls from the age of eight are taught how they can use massage and sticks to stretch their labia.
WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT DETERMINES THE FORM OF COMPLICATIONS FROM FGM?
The complications can either be short-term or long-term and it depends on the following factors:
- The type of training that the circumciser has.
- The type of female genital mutilation
- The use of antibiotics
- Sterilizing of the surgical equipment and
- The application of single-use surgical equipment.
WHAT ARE THE SHORT-TERM COMPLICATIONS OF FGM?
The short-term complications of FGM include:
- Wound infection and problems of healing.
- Pain and excessive bleeding
- Swelling and urine retention
- Necrotizing fasciitis
- tetanus and gangrene
The number of girls who may have died from the practice is yet to be known because complications are mostly under-reported.
WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM COMPLICATIONS OF FGM?
The type of FGM determines the prolonged complications that arises from FGM. They are:
- keloids and scars formation
- obstruction and strictures
- an infected epidermoid cyst
- growth of tissues of the nerves that terminates at in the clitoris (neuroma)
- an opening of 2-3cm in an infibulated girl can lead to frequent urinating or painful urinating or drops of urine all the time.
- The possibility of urine being deposited just below the scar thus causing the area to be wet always and can lead to the presence of small stones and other infections.
- There could be holes that permits the passage of excreta to the vagina.
- Infertility and pains during sex.
- Possibility of blood being deposited in the uterus and vagina during menstrual flow and this obstruction of menstrual flow will lead to pains during menstruation.
- A possible swell of the abdomen because of the accumulation of menstrual flow.
- Higher risks of complications during pregnancy and delivery. All types of FGM has adverse effect on the life of the woman and the child during delivery.
- Feeling of anxiety, depression, fatigue and trauma disorders.
WHY IS FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION PREVALENT IN INDIA?
The Muslim Bohra community can be found in the Western region of India, East Africa, and parts of Australia, America and Yemen.
There has been a serious clampdown against members of the Bohra community on their FGM practices in recent times in both Australia and America. In 2016, three members of the Bohra community were sentenced to three months imprisonment in Australia because of their violations of the country’s FGM law. And in 2017, the officials of the US arrested two medical practitioners over their involvement in the surgical removal of the clitoris of eight girls in Detroit. The matter is ongoing in court and there is the possibility that stiffer penalties will be meted to them when they are found guilty.
While major countries of the world have taken steps to end Female Genital Mutilation, as of 2018, there is no concrete legislation that has been passed against this anachronistic and barbaric practice.
HOW HAS THE LIFE OF WOMEN WITH FGM FARE IN THE SOCIETY?
There have been reports of cases where some women took steps to totally eradicate this traumatizing experience from their mind. In many cases, they are unaware of what has happened to their body. These women develop a strong psychological wall to clear off the painful memories. This method has somehow served as a means of defense against the thoughts of the unbearable pain they had to go through.
However, those who cannot get the horrid experience off their mind regard sexual intercourse as a mere activity they may have to engage in after marriage. The idea of enjoyment during sex is out of the picture.