About 200 million girls and women are living with the horrors of female genital mutilation. Increased education and training on the negative effects of FGM could help put an end to the menace.
A seventeen-year-old Mayar Mohamed Mousa died in El Canal hospital, Egypt on Sunday during a female circumcision operation.
The teenager who was under full anesthesia died at the private hospital in the hands of a registered female doctor, AFP News Agency reported.
Lotfi Abdel-Samee, the health ministry undersecretary in the province of Suez, where the crime happened, condemned the act saying: "this is something that the law has prohibited.”
The operation was being carried out by a registered female doctor, according to Abdel-Samee. Egyptian prosecutors are investigating the death.
This is just but one of many cases that are reported or noticed by authorities in Africa. Tens of thousands go unreported as they are practiced in the rural areas in the confines of the girls’ homes or the mutilators’ dens.
Although Egypt banned female genital mutilation in 2008, the practice is widespread in the country’s rural areas. It is majorly practiced among Muslims as well as Egypt's minority Christians.
According to research, there are more than 200 million girls and women across the globe who have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia where FGM is concentrated. FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, according to data from the World Health Organization.
FGM takes many forms but mostly the procedure involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
A violation of the human rights of girls and women the practice is carried out by traditional circumcisers who often play other central roles in communities such as attending childbirths. In the modern society, health care providers have been enticed by parents and aunts to perform the act on their daughters.
Since the practice is mostly done at a young age, without consent and often without their knowledge, many girls are not aware of it until they are older enough to understand.
In Senegal, a 16-year old Aida made a startling discovery that as a young girl, she had had part of her clitoris removed in the name of female circumcision. She learned about her condition when she took part in a research project funded by International Development Research Centre, a Canadian Crown corporation.
With such programs at the grassroots level, engaging both girls and boys, more youth can be reached and trained on the consequences of FGM, some of which are dire. Apart from losing a lot of blood during the operation, circumcised girls and women experience problems urinating, during their monthly period, while some develop cysts, infections as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
Through Environmental Development Action in the Third World (ENDA), an international non-governmental organization (NGO), based in Senegal, women, girls and boys are being involved in a research to identify how best modern communication tools such as mobile phones, the Internet, and community radio can be enlisted in the fight against FGM in three French-speaking, West-African countries — Mali, Burkina Faso, and Senegal, where the prevalence is higher in the continent.
For many families, the practice is allowed as a form of guarantee that secures their girls against any sexual encounter prior to marriage and protects the family honor.
Madina Bocoum Daff from Mali told Aljazeera that girls are considered free after the practice.
"It is only after completing this procedure an excised bride is considered 'free'. She usually has her first sexual experience the very same night after cutting," Madina said.
Young girls and women undergo verbal abuse, physical force, and outright discrimination to coerce the unwilling into submission to the practice that is meant to welcome them to womanhood. Mostly, when done at home, no anesthetic is administered. The victims have to endure raw pain.
Madina, who was subjected to FGM, is now an activist taking all measures possible to eliminate the practice in Mali.
Fatou Mandiang Diatta, also known by her stage name as Sister Fa has embarked on using art to promote the fight against FGM. Through music, Sister Fa tells of her own horrors as a victim of FGM. Following her efforts, in 2001, she was awarded the Freedom to Create Main Prize for her projects in Senegal aimed at improving the situation of women and girls.
In Kenya, a group of male warriors in collaboration with other members of the Samburu community, have come together to end FGM.
“I’ve seen so many complications as a result of FGM,” Josephat, one of the campaigners told Global Citizen. “When my own sister, Bella, was cut, she experienced a lot of bleeding and had to go to the hospital for a week. I saw how FGM could ruin someone’s life, and I thought it was important for me to take the initiative and work to abandon the practice.”
To end FGM, more and more people need to be informed of the negative consequences of female circumcision. Engaging children and young people in the campaigns is one sure way to ensure the practice dies. It means that in future when the youth are parents, they will make better decisions for their girls. They will choose sex education over FGM as a means to keep them ‘save’ until marriage, thus ending this generation scourge.
Image credit: Unicef
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