We are all familiar with the old adage, “Female Genital Mutilation is a violation against the human rights of women.”
Articles and studies have been conducted and released over the past years, highlighting the dangers and traumas resulting from this practice. However, why is a practice considered so abhorrent and inhuman, continuously thriving in the various communities of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Why talk about it now? The World Health Organization has revealed that due to the occurrence of the COVID19 pandemic, and its disruption to many prevention programs carried out by the UN, an additional 2 million cases are likely to surface by 2030, increasing the already existent 200 million victim cases of women living with the results of FGM.
Uganda, just as many other countries around the globe, has put in place laws that prohibit FGM. The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010 states that FGM and cutting is an offense in which removal of part or all parts of the external female genital for non medical reasons and the practice of FGM/C is prohibited. Despite that those that carry out the offense are liable to a minimum of 10 years in jail, why are people still willing to brave the odds and practice FGM? , overall and integrated sexual health services to support the victims of FGM.
The effects of FGM do not end with the experience and practice of the cutting and in some cases, binding. FGM has been known to have long term lingering effects both physically and psychollogically, on the victims that under go the practice. Oftentimes than not, the victims undergo the knife forcefully/non-consensually, encouraged by the elders in society, like parents, guardians and cultural leaders. On some occasions, it is the women’s fear of being stigmatized and treated as outcasts among their society that sends them seeking out this terrible experience.
The idea that female genital mutilation is said to, by the practitioners, ensure pre-marital virginity and marital fidelity. This not only robs these young girls and women of their human right to control and decide freely on matters concerning their sexuality but also exposes them to very dangerous gynecological and obstetrical complications like hemorrhage and at worst, death.
More painful now, is that certain groups of people are trying to legitimize an inhuman action such as this, by having health professionals carry it out on the young girls, to make a claim for it being carried out in hygienic, safer environments. Hygienic or safe , FGM is wrong. It is not about how or where it is done, it is about taking away a woman’s right to exercise her sexual rights by cutting away the parts responsible for pleasure. It is wrong because no one deserves to have to endure pain for them to be more deserving and considered a part of society.
We should ask ourselves, are women less deserving of pleasure or is it that they need to experience pain and trauma before we can deem them fit to be part of society?
What are the collective efforts that we could take nationally, or even at the smallest community levels, to address the practice of FGM and the arising challenges, immediate or long term, therein? We believe that finding these solutions, means movement towards improving young girls and women’s rights, overall health and integrated sexual health, to support the possible victims and those already living with the effects of FGM.