FGM: Female Genital Mutilation

By: Emma Ziulkowski

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure which removes complete or partial external female genitalia and other female organs. FGM is most common in sub-Saharan Africa or Arab States, but has spread to countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Migrating populations have even brought this procedure to North America, New Zealand, and Australia. There are about 200 million females that have survived this procedure. FGM inflicts serious consequences for females in regards to their sexual and reproductive health. This is a major problem for women everywhere and it needs to be discussed.

FGM is where elders hold down a female, as young as a few days after birth, and take a razor blade to remove their external genitalia. There are multiple forms of this procedure, but the idea is to remove the external genitalia in order to sew together the vagina leaving a singular hole used for menstrual cycles and urinating. Common complications that occur include shock, hemorrhage, infections, urine retention, fevers and ulcerations. These complications commonly result in death. If a female finds a way to survive this horrific procedure then they will most likely suffer from long term consequences. Aside from psychological effects, these long term consequences include cysts/abscesses, damage the urethra, sexual dysfunction, complications during child birth and a high risk of HIV infections.

Why does this happen? There are different reasons behind this procedure depending on the region. In some communities, young girls are gathered on a single day to endure this procedure as a socio-cultural rite of passage into womanhood. They will use a single razor to cut girls one after another resulting in a high risk of HIV transmission. FGM is sometimes done to control a women’s sexuality to ensure virginity before marriage. FGM is also carried out to enhance sexual pleasure for men. In other communities, external female genitalia is removed simply because it looks dirty or ugly.

Despite the cultural standing behind this procedure it is wrong and females are terrified to go through this procedure. I have not read one scenario where a female has volunteered themselves for FGM. It is forced upon them and extremely dangerous. Earlier I stated that 200 million women have survived this procedure. I want you to understand that this statistic is only females that have survived. These are unnecessary deaths, and I hope together we can begin spreading the word about how bad FGM is for females and their reproductive health. This isn’t a subject to be swept under the rug. It’s a reality that we need to face together and bring to an abrupt halt. You may not feel it’s an endangerment to you now, but it is culturally based and it can happen anywhere.