Female genital mutilation is practiced in African countries such as, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Kenya and Chad. It is also practiced in minor forms in the Middle East and South Asia. Genital alteration in the female reproductive organs includes infibulations, clitoridectomy, clitoral circumcision and piercing. Degrees of mutilation exist ranging from excision of the hood of the clitoris or clitoris itself to complete infibulations that involves removal of the clitoris, labia minor and labia major, leaving a small opening for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. As expected, normal sexual intercourse is not possible without a corrective procedure and childbirth frequently involves severe trauma that can result in life-threatening haemorrhage. Other complications include chronic urinary tractand other infections, infertility, psychological trauma, sexual dysfunction, menstrual problems and several other negative medical and emotional outcomes.
Between infancy and pre-adolescence a girl prepares to have her genital mutilated. This task is usually carried out by a physician, midwife or designated woman from the community and is mostly done in unsanitary conditions in which a midwife uses unclean sharp instruments such as razor blades, scissors, kitchen knives, and pieces of glass. These instruments are frequently used on several girls in succession and are rarely cleaned, causing the transmission of a variety of viruses such as the HIV virus, and other infections. Anti-septic techniques and anesthesia are generally not used, or for that matter, heard of. By performing circumcision in hospitals with appropriate surgical technique one does not eliminate all of the complications and dangers that mutilation brings with it.
Recent statistics of the World Health organisation have shown that 100 million women have had negative consequences after having their genitals mutilated in any way.
In July of 1997, the Egyptian Government discarded the prevalent ban on genital mutilation that existed before hand. Female genital mutilation, in Egypt was celebrated for religious purposes. This shows how the sexuality of women, whether used by a particular religion, philosophy or other train of thought is used for the sole unconscious or conscious reason of perpetuating their subjugation.
Later the ban on mutilation was once again established. Currently this ban exists in Kenya and Senegal as well as many European countries. Genital mutilation has a long and vast history; it dates as back as the time of the pharaohs. Then mutilation had several purposes one of them being punishment. In some places mutilation is believed to ensure hygiene, purity, chastity, to control female sexual urges, protection against spells, insurance of virginity and faithfulness to the husband.
The United Nations, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization have considered female genital mutilation to be a violation of Human Rights and have made recommendations to eradicate this practice.
However, trying to fight circumcision on legal terms is ineffective since those who practice it often do not report it. Voluntary workers and activists have to go into these villages and areas and educate the practitioners of the dangers of circumcision. Adopting a grassroots approach that whilst respecting local beliefs and aspects of culture work on that very culture to eradicate beliefs surrounding this torturous practice can only solve female genital mutilation.
This original text iswritten by Bianca Zammit who is a member of GLUE Organisation. GLUE Organisation is a Maltese based anarcho-feminist organisation, working towards an equal and just future. Bianca took an active part in the Gender Trouble study session organised by FYEG on November 2002.