*This post will be graphic in description and imagery and may be upsetting for some readers. Please read with caution. NSFW
Female genital mutilation.
You’ve most likely heard of it, and are aware of the barbaric practice.
It’s something I’ve had the unfortunate displeasure of teaching in its most graphic form, and then, reading countless essays and feature articles my students have written on the topic.
Don’t get me wrong.
In some ways, I enjoy the fact that this is something I teach (and, more importantly, part of our education curriculum). In some ways, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to teach my students something so important, no matter how brutal and horrific the said practice is.
What I mean, however, when I say I that I find the topic difficult to teach, I don’t mean because I shy away from the harsh reality.
Whilst some teachers try to protect their children from the truth, I believe that the truth is important no matter how confronting or brutal the truth is.
I have faith in my students. I believe that, not only can they handle the truth, but if they’re armed with the facts they can make a difference.
After all, they are literally our future.
Today, I decided to educate you.
And please, I don’t mean that to sound condescending or patronising.
I’m sure many of you know just how serious FGM is.
I’m even sure that many of you know more about the subject than I do.
Regardless, I feel that it’s a topic that needs addressing.
Perhaps some of you reading this will learn something new.
Perhaps some of you reading this will a comment and educate me on this topic.
If there’s something you feel needs covering, please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love any interest you could share on the topic.
However, just for today, let’s start with the very basics.
What, actually, is FGM?
Female genital mutilation is the process where a person removes some or all of a young girl’s external genitalia. Often, after this procedure (for want of a better word) means that the child’s vagina is sown up. Literally sown up. Only a small hole is left for the woman to pee out of (and bleed from, when she comes of age and begins her period).
It’s a traditional practice to ensure a woman’s virginity. She is ‘cut open’ on her wedding night.
Many women are shunned if they haven’t had the procedure.
Is the ‘procedure’ safe?
No, it’s not. It’s mostly performed by someone using simple tools, who is not medically trained and is often using unsterilised equipment.
Many children develop serious infections as a result.
Many of those children die from the procedure.
Regardless, the procedure is incredibly painful.
How dangerous is the ‘procedure’?
As I mentioned above, many children die as a result, so it’s obviously incredibly dangerous.
However, according to the World Health Organisation and the United Nations, many women also suffer severe medical long-term and permanent injuries, including infertility, cysts, increased likelihood of complications and death during childbirth, serious mental effects as a result as well as being more at risk for STIs and STDs. And these are just some of the serious side effects.
Are there different types of FGM?
According to WHO ..
The most common forms of female genital mutilation are Type I and II.
What age is the ‘procedure’ usually performed?
Usually, when the child is quite young. However, according to the UN, the practice is performed on girls ranging from infancy to around the age of fifteen.
Where is FGM most commonly practiced?
FGM is quite commonly practiced in 29 African countries; however, Nigeria has recently made steps toward ensuring the practice is illegal.
The procedure is also commonly practiced in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Oman, the United Emirates, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Israel, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru (WHO, 2016).
The procedure has also been performed in developed countries such as Australia and the US (despite the fact that the procedure is illegal).
It is also important to remember (despite any misinformation you have heard) that FGM is not only performed by those of the Islamic faith – in fact, the procedure is performed in more predominantly Christian nations.
Is FGM a religious practice?
No. Being religious – of any denomination – does not mean you are more or less likely to be a victim of FGM.
It is a cultural practice, not a religious one.
As a result, many religions denounce the barbaric practice as it does not reflect or align with their religious beliefs.
How can I help?
Being informed is the first step.
The more you are aware of the procedure – and the facts, instead of recklessly and ignorantly blaming certain religious groups like Islam (which seems to be everyone’s favourite current scapegoat), the more you can help.
The more awareness about the subject, the more we can speak out.
We need to try and help women in these countries understand that this practice is not normal and not okay.
More importantly than that, we need to respect their decisions and feelings whilst creating more safe places for these women to talk. To be heard. To be helped. This is not about us: this is about what is best for them.
Where can I find more information?
At the bottom of this article, I have left a number of references below for you to read further on. However, I strongly recommend viewing the autobiographical movie Desert Flower that follows the story of the former model and UN ambassador Waris Dirie.
It’s an exceptionally vivid, graphic and brutal recount of her life, and how she used her fame to raise awareness about this procedure. It’s a movie I’d highly recommend.
Regardless, it’s time that we, as feminists, start raising more awareness about this issue.
If you are a reader and live in a country that condones FGM, please feel free to contact me below (or privately via my Facebook page) if you’d like to share any stories (whether it is a personal or someone else’s), I would love the opportunity to help share, and better understand, your experiences.
Potentially far more important than that, please let us know how we can best help women in these countries and what we can do to actually help.
Originally published on The Melodramatic Confessions of Carla Louise.
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