Monthly Archives: April 2012

Efforts to End Female Circumcision

Laruen Pardue

            Put yourself in the shoes of the over two million girls a year who experience the fear and pain of female circumcision. Imagine the immense pain that they undergo while being forced by their families to be strapped down and their genitals mutilated by a doctor or midwife armed with nothing more than a knife or sometimes even just a broken piece of glass, with no pain medication whatsoever. This is the reality for an estimated one hundred and thirty million women who have undergone the procedure of female circumcision. Female circumcision is a traditional cultural practice that is held throughout many different societies around the world, and involves the partial or complete removal of the female genital organs. There is no medical justification for the practice, as well as no evidence of it in any religion. The primary excuse for this practice is to protect a woman’s virginity and honor, for themselves as well as their family. It can be a dangerous practice in underdeveloped countries, and measures need to be taken to educate  people on how to do the practice safely and healthily, if not be eradicated all together.

            A girl can be circumcised anywhere from the age of one week old to her late teens. They are usually performed by females who are elders, midwives, or doctors within the community. Circumcision can be performed in a variety of settings, whether it is in a rural setting without the female being operated on and no anesthesia or it can be in a medical setting. In rural settings, anything from razor blades to a sharp stone can be used in order to perform the procedure. There are four different kinds of circumcision: sunna, excision, infibulations, and an unclassified type. The sunna is the most widespread, and involves the cutting of the entire clitoris or clitoral hood. Excision, or clitoridectomy, involves the removal of the entire clitoris and part or all of the labia minora is removed. It is anatomically equivalent to the amputation of the male penis. 15-20% of women receive infibulations, which is the removal of all or part of the internal and external genitalia and skin as well as the vaginal opening being sewn shut with only a pencil sized whole left for urination and vaginal bleeding. The unclassified kind involves a part of the clitoris and vagina being pricked, pierced, or burned. As you can imagine, these procedures can contribute to an infinite number of health problems and complications.

            Health conditions that are associated with female circumcision can be long-term and short-term, and vary based on the type of procedure performed. If death occurs during or after the procedure it is usually due to: severe bleeding, pain, infection, oozing pus, gangrene, tetanus, chronic ulcers, or a combination of these due to unsanitary environments and tools. Fistulae have been documented to build up and lead to a steady leaking of urine and feces. Severe swelling near wounds has led to urine retention that would last for several hours or days. Dermoid cysts as big as large fruits or footballs have been documented, as well as bleeding from the clitoris, UTIs, tumors, and pain during sexual intercourse. It can also lead to complications or terminations of pregnancies. The infinite list of physical, emotional, mental, and sexual trauma that can result from female circumcision has led many people to label it as being “barbaric, abhorrent, and equated torture.” Mainstream media have even opted to start referring to the practice as “female genital mutilation” due to the fact that even though the intent was circumcision, the ending result was mutilation of women’s vaginas.

            Female circumcision has become a world-wide problem and is recognized by many countries governments as being wrong and attempts have been made to outlaw the practice. However, because the people have not been explained to the nature and health problems that are associated with it, the practice still continues. It has been said that many women don’t even attribute their pain and complications to the operation because they were told that it was harmless. No matter how many laws are passed or how many restrictions are placed on people, it will never completely stop others from practicing the things that they have always done. Female circumcision has been illegal in Egypt since 1959 when the Ministry of Health stopped the official registration of circumcision, but yet it is still a common practice. No one can completely stop these horrible acts and mutilations against these women, but you can help in the fight. The UNFPA and UNICEF have come together with several close governments, NGOs, religious leaders, and small community groups to cover over 17 countries with the hope of reducing the practice in those countries by 40%. You can help by donating funds to help their cause and put an end to these harmful practices. You can visit their website and learn more at http://www.unfpa.org/gender/practices1.htm. There are many other organizations out there trying to put an end to female genital mutilation as well, and I urge you to research these groups and do something to help. Donate, join their cause by advertising for them, volunteer, just do something. It’s going to take the world to make a difference and a change, and that change starts with you