Female genital mutilation: Societal damage done to women


This vexed issue of female genital mutilation, is a scourge predominant in Africa. It is often described as the ritual cutting of some of the external female genitalia. The practice is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Often times this ritual [which is synonymous with physical pain] is carried out by an herbalist using a sharp object which is most times not sterilized and is conducted from days after birth to puberty and beyond. The ritual process varies from one community to the other. It involves the removal of the clitoral hood and clitoral glands; removal of the inner labia; and removal of the inner and outer labia and closure of the vulva.

Recently there has been world outcry against this obnoxious practice called FGM, and it has been banned and criminalized in some countries in which it is norm. Albeit these laws are not strictly enforced

In some cases a single hole of 2–3 mm is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid. The vulva is closed with surgical thread, or agave or acacia thorns, and might be covered with a poultice of raw egg, herbs and sugar. To help the tissue bond, the girl’s legs are tied together, often from hip to ankle. At times when these procedures involve mistakes, they are repeated until the correct local practice is affected; this burdens the victims with unbearable pain and torture.

The privates of little girls are opened for sexual intercourse, for the first time either by a midwife with a knife or by the woman’s husband with his penis. In some areas, including Somaliland, female relatives of the bride and groom might watch the opening of the vagina to check that the girl is a virgin. The woman is opened further for childbirth (defilation or DE infibulation), and closed again afterwards (infibulation). Infibulation, is cutting the vagina again to restore the pinhole size of the first infibulation. This might be performed before marriage, and after childbirth, divorce and widowhood.

Victims of FGM are traumatized and live like that for the rest of their lives. These oftentimes lead to serious health complications like excessive bleeding, pain, urine retention, and healing problems/wound infection.

In some cases FGM can lead to fatal bleeding, anaemia, urinary infection, septicaemia, tetanus, gangrene, necrotizing fasciitis and endometritis. It is not known how many girls and women die as a result of the practice, because complications may not be recognized or reported. It has also often been said that FGM aid the transmission of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

It has been said that FGM endanger women and put them higher risk of problems during pregnancy and childbirth, which are more common with the more extensive FGM procedures.

The WHO estimated in 2006 that additional 10–20 babies die per 1,000 deliveries as a result of FGM. The estimate was based on a study conducted on 28,393 women attending delivery wards at 28 obstetric centres in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

Many writers have surmised that Nigeria has a large population and has the highest number of female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide, accounting for about one-quarter of the estimated 115–130 million circumcised women in the world. In Nigeria the rate of FGM is 41 percent among adult women and is on the rise.

In the South-South States of Nigeria, like Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Akwa-Ibom, Cross Rivers States the level of practice is highest accounting for 77 percent, followed by the south east  68 percent and south west 65 percent, but practiced on a smaller scale in the north. Edo State is about the worst in recent times.

Recently a family of 3 [pregnant wife included] from Edo State travelled home only for family members to attack the pregnant wife inflicting series of injuries on her and she was said to have been circumcised against her will in the presence of her husband. The local natives even made attempt to circumcise their toddler daughter.

The family has remained traumatized and the husband has been depressed. Their case is worsened by the incidence of ostracism as they are not allowed to socialize amongst their kith and kin in all the 36 states of Nigeria; whether in Lagos where they live, or Port Harcourt, Abuja or Kano State. They are now seen as outcast and cannot live freely amongst them. The Country has been showing little or no concern to the plight of the victims and there has been unreported of victims committing suicide!

The world needs to show concern to the vexed issue of FGM before it will become an uncontrollable scourge. The West, like the UK, Canada, USA, Russia Sweden, Holland and even the giant Asian Tigers need to sit up and save the world.

This is not one to turn a blind eye to.

Gbolahan Joko T.

Culled from here


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