Tuesday May 21, 2019

200 million Girls and Women in more than 30 Countries have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), says UN

Although the procedure is illegal in the United States, many Somali natives now residing in the U.S. underwent FGM as young girls and still live with pain

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In this Nov. 5, 2014 photo, relatives of 13-year-old Soheir al-Batea who died undergoing the procedure of female genital mutilation walk in front of her home in Dierb Biqtaris village, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Cairo. Image Source: VOA
  • Somalia has the highest rate in the world recorded by the United Nations, with about 98 percent the country’s female population between the ages of 15 and 49 affected by FGM
  • According to the U.N. Population Fund, there are three types of FGM, and Type III called infibulation, causes vaginal obstruction that can result in accumulation of menstrual flow in the vagina and uterus
  • The World Health Organization says FGM is performed for different reasons from one region to another

October 25, 2016: The United Nations estimates 200 million girls and women in more than 30 countries have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).

Somalia has the highest rate in the world recorded by the United Nations, with about 98 percent the country’s female population between the ages of 15 and 49 affected by Female Genital Mutilation.

Although the procedure is illegal in the United States, many Somali natives now residing in the U.S. underwent FGM as young girls and still live with pain. And, in some Somali communities, the practice is carried out in secret.

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The U.S. state of Minnesota is home to a large number of refugees from Somalia. Fadumo Afi, who lives in the Twin Cities area, a 55-year-old mother of seven who complains of medical problems, remembers how she was mutilated with an unsterilized instrument. She said she underwent the procedure, along with another girl, when she was 6.

A counselor holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutilation. VOA
A counselor holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutilation. VOA

“It was too harmful to us because we have not even had anesthesia,” she said. “We were living in the areas where medication wasn’t [available]. We couldn’t even pee.”

Physical, emotional scars

Fartun Weli says she’s unable to have children due to FGM, which is why she founded Isuroon, a nonprofit organization that advocates for Somali women living outside Somalia and works with women who have life-threatening medical conditions as a result of having undergone FGM.

Weli underwent what is considered the most dangerous type of FGM, known as Type III, which includes the complete sewing shut of the vagina. She says she still has physical and emotional scars.

According to the U.N. Population Fund, which works with youth and women, there are three types of FGM, and Type III, called infibulation, causes vaginal obstruction that can result in accumulation of menstrual flow in the vagina and uterus. Infibulation can also cause difficulties during sexual intercourse or childbirth, and can be fatal.

“Well, the complication is hard. You have a problem with sexual issues. You have a problem going to see the doctor…when they going to do pelvic exams,” Weli said. “It really, really hurts. You are self-conscious about your sexual needs and you are asking yourself ‘Why am I not normal?’ Now we are living [in] America, second or third generations, and we are becoming friends with non-Somalis, so we discuss about this issue.”

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Imam: FGM prohibited

FGM is a traditional practice that has nothing to do with Islam, says Sheikh Hassan Jami’i, an imam in the Twin Cities area. He said he has four daughters and none have been subjected to FGM.

 А traditional surgeon is seen holding razor blades used to carry out female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation. VOA
А traditional surgeon is seen holding razor blades used to carry out female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation. VOA

“All scholars of Islam agree that FGM is prohibited,” he said, “That’s why I’m proud as a father that I have never practiced this harmful FGM. In Islam, there is a principle that says whatever is harmful, it’s prohibited.”

Khalid Mohammed, a Somali-American Twin Cities resident, agrees. He has seen his sisters suffer from the practice and wouldn’t recommend that others go through the same ordeal.

“I have sisters who have suffered from FGM and because of the trauma and problems they have gone through, I see it as something too bad,” he said. “Their menstrual cramps last longer and they experience more pain and can’t even afford to do their daily work.”

Untold problems, pain

Dr. Ahmed Roble, who runs a clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota, treats many women who have been subjected to FGM.

“This is an aggression done to innocent girls at a very tender age, and sometimes even newborns,” he said.

The average age that girls are subjected to FGM is between 5 years old and 10 years old, he added. Roble said that women who live with the scars of FGM suffer during childbirth.

“Because of the scars, they are not as elastic and stretching is difficult,” he said. “You get more stitches to repair because this is not a normal opening.”

Since the medical complications of FGM are severe, even those who undergo surgery will not regain what they have lost in terms of health or appearance. Although there are now numerous campaigns and laws against the procedure in African countries, it is still widely practiced and causes untold problems and pain for women.

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The World Health Organization says FGM is performed for different reasons from one region to another. Among them is trying to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity, reducing a woman’s libido to therefore “help her resist extramarital sexual acts,” and “increasing marriageability.”

There are also “cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine or male.” (VOA)

Next Story

Teens Still At Risk But FGM Rate Goes Down in Africa: Research

Although girls under 14 are most at risk, research should include those aged 15 to 19

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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has dropped drastically among African children this century, research shows, but campaigners said Wednesday that teenagers and young women remained at risk of the harmful practice.

Known as FGM, female genital mutilation is a ritual that usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, including the clitoris.

Cutting is a rite of passage in many societies, often with the aim of promoting chastity. It can cause chronic pain, menstrual problems, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. Some girls hemorrhage to death or die from infections. It can also cause fatal childbirth complications in later life.

FGM
Amran Mahamood used to circumcise young girls in Hargeysa, Somalia, but stopped after a religious leader convinced her the rite was not required by Islamic law. VOA

Analyzing data spanning more than 20 years, BMJ Global Health said in a study there was a “huge and significant decline” in FGM in children under 14 across Africa.

East Africa had the biggest fall in its prevalence rates, dropping to 8 percent in 2016 from 71 percent in 1995, according to the BMJ study published Tuesday.

In north Africa, prevalence rates fell to 14 percent in 2015 from nearly 60 percent in 1990, the report said; west Africa dropped to about 25 percent in 2017, from 74 percent in 1996.

UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, estimates that 200 million women and girls globally have undergone FGM, with the highest prevalence in Africa and parts of the Middle East.

FGm
Maasai girls and a man watch a video on a mobile phone prior to the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

More to the story

Campaigners welcomed the drop but said FGM also affects teenagers and young women, demographic groups outside the study.

“We are pleased to see that the numbers are coming down in a lot of countries,” said Emma Lightowlers, a spokeswoman for campaign group 28TooMany, which does research on FGM in Africa. “But it doesn’t tell the whole story and there are other groups where cutting takes place after the age of 14. It takes place in teenagers, or in fact, even in women in preparation for marriage,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM
A badge reads “The power of labor against FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2018. (VOA)

Julia Lalla-Maharajh, founder of the Orchid Project, which campaigns against female genital cutting, agreed.

“Growing efforts to end the practice are having an impact [but] girls in this group may still be cut when they get older,” she said in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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Although girls under 14 are most at risk, research should include those aged 15 to 19, said British-based charity Forward, which supports FGM survivors from African communities.

“This data should not make us complacent to say that all those girls are risk-free,” said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, head of Forward. “We need to work towards ensuring these girls are supported and protected from FGM.” (VOA)