It is estimated that up to 78% of Girls and Women in The Gambia have undergone
Female Genital Mutilation, even though it was outlawed in 2015.
While The Gambia grows stronger as a nation in the execution of its Democracy,
becoming more involved in the economic activities of the West African Economic
Community, it has slacked in the implementation of its own laws against FGM.
There have been reports of Police turning away Hospital staff who report it when
children are admitted from complications related to the procedure.
Female Genital Mutilation is a type of circumcision of the clitoris or a process where
the external Genitals of a Woman, most commonly a West African woman, are cut,
cauterized or otherwise altered, for non-medical reasons.
Hemorrhage, Infertility, Chronic Pain and Reproductive tract infections are only some of the complications associated with the practice of FGM.
Before the rise of Human Rights advocacy against FGM, it was carried out largely by
family members and traditional female excisers.
The rise of advocacy was hoped to bring about the reduction of instances of FGM, but in reality, statistically, it has only brought about an alteration and commercialization of the tradition.
In what the World Health Organization calls the “Medicalization” of FGM, health care
providers have been found out to be performing FGM procedures in West African
countries, despite the international perspective on it.
This Medicalization is clearly also the Commercialization of FGM, because Money is
being exchanged in a professional setting.
Parents seek out Midwives, General Practitioners and Nurses for the purpose of
carrying out FGM procedures in order to reduce the likelihood of their daughters
experiencing complications due to the procedure.
It is a great anomaly for Western Human Rights groups how millions of women across West Africa, in 2019, are still subjecting their little girls to the practice, even though it has been proven to be of no physical benefit to the Girl child whatsoever.
The truth of the matter is that many of these women, who themselves are dubbed
survivors, consider tradition and religion to matter much more than Western logic.
Another truth is that in as much as FGM is an unacceptable practice for most of us, we have to recognize that we place little girls at a higher risk if we don’t open up our own understanding of culture in order to tail our efforts in preventing the negative
consequences that come with it in the future.
The goal of Development in Africa, cannot be to force our ideals on communities, no
matter how flawed we consider the ideals to be.
With millions still believing in FGM, for traditional and religious reasons, our
responsibility is to work with communities in ensuring that we all achieve the goals we share as outsiders and insiders on topics such as these.
The numbers of little girls undergoing the procedure is just too high for us to risk FGM going underground.
It is important that we take control of the situation by recognizing that making it illegal on
paper does not make it go away.
The Medicalization of FGM is a solution that has been created by the problem itself. It reveals to us that advocacy has had a positive impact, with families willing to admit
there are definite flaws in the traditional method of FGM. Unfortunately though,
Medicalization also communicates that families involved in FGM would much sooner
alter how they carry out the procedure, before stopping its legacy in its tracks and
preventing it from being a factor in the lives of future generations.
Medicalization and Commercialization go hand in hand.
Treating complications from FGM have been found to cost Governements up to 1% of
their Annual budgets.
An amount which can be reduced and even changed by health care practitioners
contributing in the payment of their tax from charging for safe clitoral circumsions.
In the same way that abortion is illegal while legal under certain conditions, FGM needs to be given room to respect the personhood of the one undergoing the procedure while ensuring that health and safety are paramount.
For each woman who undergoes an abortion in Africa, thousands of Rands are made
by clinics providing the service because of the legalization of the procedure, and the
recognition of choice as a factor.
We need to work with the environments we are seeking to Develop.
We need to look at what exists in The Gambia, and as opposed to bulldozing our way
into forcing FGM underground, we need to open the doors of Hospitals and Clinics to
tailor the procedure and save little girls from further instances of trauma and death.