Saturday, 27 June 2015

A mutilation cannot be considered a cultural act

In order to effectively fight female genital mutilation, one has to have sufficient knowledge about it. I talk about “mutilation” because it is an organ that is cut not for medical reasons but for social and cultural reasons.

It is a shameful practice, because a mutilation cannot be considered a cultural act.
In Africa, we cannot fight the practice only by invoking the health risks or legal arguments. It has to be attacked on a cultural level. We have to present cultural counter-arguments. We should tell the African women that we must fight these murderous practices, because they have nothing to do with the true African culture.
It has to be remembered that in the Middle Ages in Europe there used to be the chastity belt and women bound their breasts so that they would look like boys. Of course, this is not done anymore. We have to fight anything that has no basis in reason. The religious argument does not hold water either. The aesthetic argument has no value and in the final analysis, a woman should be free to enjoy her body.
The only way to fight the practice in societies where people cannot read or write - what is the point of telling them about infection and
haemorrhaging? - is to present cultural counter-arguments.

 We should not forget pride and Honour

In Kenya recently, there was a young woman of 21 whose mother had not been excised. To please her husband since her in-laws did not like the fact that she had not undergone the procedure, this girl performed an excision on herself with a razor blade. If one examines cultural practices such as FGM and the status of women, one will realize that women are the pillars of their families and of society. In Africa, it is said that behind every strong man there is a stronger woman. To understand excision in the African culture, one has to take into account all these cultural aspects.

Migrant women are often caught between the culture of their country of origin and the culture of their country of destination

 Communities have been uprooted and displaced to other countries. Those who migrate voluntarily - legally or illegally – do so because they believe they will be able to lead a better life in their new country.
Therefore, it is very important to deal with FGM within the context of migration. The problems of excision and other traditional practices which negatively affect migrant women and children are exacerbated due to the displacement of these populations. FGM is condemned by most of the governments of the countries involved, which are both countries of origin and countries of destination. FGM remains an ongoing practice in many countries of the world. It is a destructive practice, although it is often considered as the norm by many women and girls among these migrating communities. We need to target these communities if we want to find a solution to the problem.
The role of the family is crucial in having these women adapt to the customs of their new country of residence. Mutilations drain women’s energy and the resources that they could use to learn the language of their new country, look for work and send their children to school. FGM can be an obstacle to social integration for these migrant women. This is one of the reasons why fighting FGM is a priority and yet another reason to combat this practice. Even for young girls born or raised in Europe – where prevalence is fairly high – excision is considered as a right of passage and not subjecting oneself to this procedure may destroy interfamilial links.

Literacy campaigns, sending children to school, mastering the language, having access to the economy, so as to have necessary financial resources ,all of these social determinants need to be taken into account to fight this problem, so that migrant women are in a better position to shoulder their responsibilities and combat the problem. Only if women become empowered and autonomous will the message be heard and have a positive effect.

Women who come from migrant communities need to know where to turn if they need assistance for themselves and their families in terms of health care and other forms of assistance. All of this needs to be part of an integration policy, not only in the country of destination but also in the countries of origin.

The principal actors are the women themselves.They are the main target group because they are both the guardians and the victims of this practice.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Why is female genital mutilation still practiced?

There are several reasons provided to justify the practice of female genital mutilation:

  • Control over women’s sexuality: Virginity is a pre-requisite for marriage and is equated to female honour in a lot of communities. FGM, in particular infibulation, is defended in this context as it is assumed to reduce a woman’s sexual desire and lessen temptations to have extramarital sex thereby preserving a girl’s virginity.
  • Hygiene: There is a belief that female genitalia are unsightly and dirty. In some FGM-practicing societies, unmutilated women are regarded as unclean and are not allowed to handle food and water.
  • Gender based factors: FGM is often deemed necessary in order for a girl to be considered a complete woman, and the practice marks the divergence of the sexes in terms of their future roles in life and marriage. The removal of the clitoris and labia — viewed by some as the “male parts” of a woman’s body — is thought to enhance the girl’s femininity, often synonymous with docility and obedience. It is possible that the trauma of mutilation may have this effect on a girl’s personality. If mutilation is part of an initiation rite, then it is accompanied by explicit teaching about the woman’s role in her society.
  • Cultural identity: In certain communities, where mutilation is carried out as part of the initiation into adulthood, FGM defines who belongs to the community. In such communities, a girl cannot be considered an adult in a FGM-practicing society unless she has undergone FGM.
  • Religion: FGM predates Islam and is not practiced by the majority of Muslims, but it has acquired a religious dimension. Where it is practiced by Muslims, religion is frequently cited as a reason. Many of those who oppose mutilation deny that there is any link between the practice and religion, but Islamic leaders are not unanimous on the subject. Although predominant among Muslims, FGM also occurs among Christians, animists and Jews. 

It sounds like an obvious thing to say but let’s remember in our fight to end this practice we should try and understand diverse tribes and what they stand for. With the rise of  globalisation it is important to remember that FGM is no longer prevalent in Africa, Asia or the so obvious places as before. Some women born and bred in the western countries now have to undergo FGM in order to please boyfriends, lovers or husbands. We should all be fighting this practise.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Female genital mutilation: a curse on women


Despite decades of activists trying to curb the practice and dozens of laws banning it, the horrific procedure of cutting or removing babies' and girls' external genitalia continues.

According to an exhaustive new report from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), more than 125 million girls and women in 29 countries have undergone female genital mutilation.

The reasons are varied. It will stop girls from being promiscuous and preserve their virginity, proponents say. It's socially expected; it's tradition; it's religious.

But it's also incredibly dangerous and painful, and most of the girls and women who experience it want it to stop.

The practice occurs mostly in African and Middle Eastern countries. Women, and men too, say they subject their daughters to it because they will be socially ostracized if they don't.

It would be easy to blame parents, but that would be ignoring the complexities of the issue. The practice is tied to everything from tradition to patriarchy, and that's part of the reason attempts to stop it have been only marginally successful.

Way forward

Tougher laws

There are laws against female genital mutilation in most African nations, but the practice continues, because the laws don't address the social and cultural reasons for committing the act in the first place.

If individuals continue to see others cutting their daughters and continue to believe that others expect them to cut their own daughters, the law may not serve as a strong enough deterrent to stop the practice.

Conversely, among groups that have abandoned [female genital mutilation and cutting], legislation can serve as a tool to strengthen the legitimacy of their actions and as an argument for convincing others to do the same.

 Ending social ostracism

Many of the countries where cutting occurs are predominantly Muslim, but it would be wrong to say the religion is somehow at fault. There are Muslims around the world who abhors the practice, and it is often linked to other ethnic and social traditions unique to different regions. According to the UN, organizations that have encouraged people to abandon the practice "not as a criticism of local culture but as a better way to attain the core positive values that underlie tradition and religion, including 'doing no harm to others'" have had some luck in limiting the procedure.

Efforts to end female genital mutilation contribute to the larger issues of ending violence against children and women and confronting gender inequalities.

Let’s face it, the issue of FGM centres on gender imbalance.

Organizations working to end FGM need to let women know about specific imams, for example, who have disavowed the practice, so they don't see it as something absolutely required by their religion.

There is also need to talk about the health consequences especially mentally after the cutting which most cut women carry until they die. 

Unfortunately without awareness of the dangers of FGM "women feel very strongly that they have to cut, that it is a religious obligation and convincing women to abandon a practice they see as so intrinsic to womanhood in cultures that value girls as wives and mothers above all else is complicated.


Women in FGM practising communities’ are not given the same political or educational opportunities as men. They hold very little power, and even when they want to end the cycle of mutilation, they face the prospect of being cast out if they resist. Some women fear that if they do not have their girls cut, they will be "unsuitable" for marriage, which would doom them to a life of ostracism and poverty in many places.

Without education or means to support themselves, women are stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty and oppression.

Education could draw women into the labor market, which could weaken traditional family structures. Women might be seen as desirable partners for their ability to contribute to household income, which might reduce what some see as the need for cutting. Schools can also expose girls to people from different cultures and to mentors who might oppose the practice. While many girls have been cut by the time they reach school, they may be more likely to not continue the cycle with their own daughters.

Educating men and boys about the dangers of cutting is important, too. And the report found that many men, like women, want the practice to end but feel they have to subject their daughters to it for social reasons.

Ultimately, as many as 30 million girls face genital mutilation in the next decade, but there is some hope.

If, in the next decade, we work together to apply the wealth of evidence at our disposal, we will see major progress. That means a better life and more hopeful prospects for millions of girls and women, their families and entire communities.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Female Genital Mutilation and Identifying girls and women at risk

entifying girls and young women at risk

Knowing who has been mutilated or is at risk is often difficult. This is difficult because:

• it happens only once

• parents may believe FGM is a good thing to do for their daughters

• the genitalia of girls are rarely examined

• it is not culturally acceptable for girls to talk openly about FGM.

But remember there is a risk if:

• the girl’s mother or her older sisters have been cut

• the mother has limited contact with people outside of her family

• the paternal grandmother is very influential within the family

• the mother has poor access to information about FGM

• no one talks to the mother about FGM

• health, social service and education staff fail to respond appropriately

• communities are given the impression that FGM is not taken seriously by the statutory sector.

Step up and say No to FGM. It has nothing to do with culture or religion. Spread the message and say no to an unnecessary, horrific procedure that has no value to a woman’s body.