Lesson 1: What's FGM?
I hope you're well and are looking after yourself, especially over this long holiday period.
I want to start up a new segment where I educate more people on certain issues around the world - it's great being aware certain things exist but many don't understand them completely which makes it difficult to put an end to it.
For the first 'lesson', I will be focusing on FGM - Female Genital Mutilation. I was taught the very basics of it last year and decided to go away and research into it further so that I can educate more people, raising awareness.
(*disclaimer: I go into some detail in this post, read with care*)
What is FGM?
FGM, also known as Female Genital Mutilation, is female circumcision typically performed on girls of the age of around 1-15 (before puberty). There is no medical reason behind it - it's 'tradition' for some cultures which means there's more pressure on young girls to go through with the practice otherwise it seems as if they're failing their culture.
FGM is the deliberate cutting, injuring or changing of female genitals without use of an anesthetic. The blades used to perform FGM aren't normally cleaned or sterilised, making the procedure incredibly unhygienic. It's a very dangerous and harmful process that results in multiple short-term and long-term problems; including childbirth, sex and mental health - there are 0 health benefits.
Where does FGM happen?
Typically, FGM happens all across Africa, the Middle-East and Asia. There are 30 countries that this procedure is performed in - usually, the countries are LEDCs. It affects more than 200 million young girls and women.
Without any medical reason, FGM is used to this day still due to cultural tradition. Young girls are told this is their 'route into womanhood'. It's common that many young girls are tricked by a member/members of their family into having it done. A lot of the time, the young girls don't consent to having it done or they're taken without knowing what's about to happen - they're told they're going on 'holiday', but instead they're being taken to a country where it's harder to be caught for practicing FGM. Unfortunately, the issue of FGM has been silenced for a long time because the topic of female circumcision is too 'gross' to be talked about.
What actually happens during the circumcision?
With FGM, there's 3 main types:
Type 1 - Clitoridectomy = this is the removal of part or all of the clitoris.
Type 2 - Excision = the removal of part/all of the clitoris as well as the inner labia (the lips that surround the clitoris), either with or without removal of the labia majora.
Type 3 - Infibulation = narrowing the vaginal opening (by creating a seal by sewing it up), as well as the cutting and re-positioning of the labia. This is by far the worst type, being the most intense and having the biggest impact on the victim.
Other common types are pricking, piercing, scraping or burning the female genitals.
What are the problems faced afterwards?
Well, the first thing a victim of FGM faces would be the embarrassment of knowing what has happened to them, however intense their type was. This whole process will damage their mental health - it leaves them with psychological trauma. FGM can be used against girls to control them and their sexuality so it would leave heavy pressure on them to live the life her parents want, not the life she wants.
Physically, she would face some incredibly difficult problems with things like sexual activity or childbirth - there's high risk of her ripping and injuring herself further, which causes many complications. Sometimes, girls just altogether can't engage in sexual activity or have children which could then have a further impact on her mental health - by not being able to experience huge life events. In addition, there are some cases where the victim's partner could become frustrated that she wouldn't be able to partake in any sexual activity, leading to many relationship problems in her future. Whilst it's a rare occurrence, FGM creates a possibility of death.
What does this all mean?
All in all, FGM leads to many more negative outcomes than positive.
It highlights the gender inequality in the world where young girls don't get a say in their life - male circumcision is a thing, too, and is as important as FGM but FGM is often silenced more. Any form of circumcision without consent and a complete understanding of it is wrong and needs to be stopped.
There are numerous organisations and leaders around the globe working to criminalize FGM everywhere. Whilst it's illegal in the UK, it's not illegal everywhere in the world and it's often that British-born young girls fall victim to FGM, still. If we work together to educate more people on what FGM is and what happens to helpless young girls, then there'll be more global awareness to help prevent it happening.
Do your part - share this lesson around with family, friends, whoever.
Can you imagine if this happened to someone you know?
Let's work together and unite against the problems we face in the world.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you have found it useful and have learnt something! Let me know your thoughts by commenting or sending me a message through my website.
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