Female Genital Mutilation is analyzed as a widespread issue that needs further recognition as a procedure that has no medical or religious justification. Legislation, enforcement, and additional measures must take place to fight for an end of the practice that has harmed over hundreds of girls and women. By allowing the practice to continue based on religion and/or social traditions, the risks remain the same in addition to maintaining the inequality and discrimination against females. The reader will start by learning and understanding the background of female genital mutilation, including its causes and effects. Following, the extent of the issue will be discussed to determine how big the problem is. The desire of international response would finally be discussed with the arguments opposing the international approach to follow with the conclusion.
The United Nations defines FGM as “all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.”The practice expanded and was exercised for centuries because of the fallacious argument that the procedure controls a woman’s sexuality. Additionally, based on cultural values and ethics, the procedure is also considered to enhance purity, modesty, and beauty. Four significant types of FGM have been classified as the following: clitoridectomy, excision, infibulation, and the fourth consisting of all the other harmful procedures such as piercing, pricking, or scraping the genital area. Clitoridectomy refers to the partial or whole removal of the clitoris. In addition to partially or completely removing the clitoris, excision also removes the labia minora. By creating a covering seal, infibulation narrows the vaginal opening by cutting and repositioning the labia minora or labia majora with or without removal of the clitoris. From infancy to young adult years, girls and women undergo the procedure by “traditional” and/or “professional” cuttors who use razor blades, scissors, or ceremonial knives. Regardless of the reasons and/or whom is conducting the procedure, the World Health Organization expresses that FGM has caused adverse results. The organization stated the following:
“FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and
women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women …The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”
Those who undergo FGM are subjected to health consequences, social consequences, and economic costs. If the main concern is to control a woman’s sexuality, then a primary concern may be health risks. The World Health Organization identified several immediate and long-term health risks following the FGM procedure. With the risks shown through the above chart, it becomes inevitable that the life of a female is in danger. Ultimately, FGM has no health benefits. Instead, it causes more harm for the girl and for the woman who at most times cannot deny the procedure to happen. By continuing and enforcing this practice, communities of women still remain discriminated and are subjected to the inequality that has violated their rights of life, health, security, and their own womanhood.
In 1996, the United States criminalized FGM within the states, in addition to banning the deportation of a girl to undergo the practice elsewhere. Unfortunately, there have still been cases among US cities, ranking New York with the highest number of incidents (Garsd, 2017). In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution, aiming to ban FGM worldwide. All UN members participated in the universal agreement, yet the political will of individual countries and/or communities to implement and enforce the law has been viewed as weak with rare prosecutions. Today, FGM has affected more than 200 million girls and women. It is essential to emphasize that this is not just an African problem. Although it had been predominantly practiced in Africa, the procedure has spread to many more countries including Yemen, Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Sudan, Egypt, Mali, and Guinea. However, various countries have expressed mixed thoughts about the continuation of FGM. In UNICEF’s 2013 study, they found the following results. In Gambia, 82% of girls and women who have undergone the procedure think the practice should continue, compared to 5% of girls and women who have not been cut. Whereas 41% of girls and women in Ethiopia, with no education, support the continuation of FMG, 5% of girls and women with secondary or higher education do not. Girls and women in Liberia, from the poorest households, are twice as likely to have experienced the procedure than those from the richest households. Additionally, 85% of boys and men think that FGM should be discontinued in Cameroon.
By looking over two decades, the chart demonstrates a decreased trend of prevalence in the percentage of women undergoing FGM. It is important to note that only the ages of 15 – 49 are considered throughout the chart; therefore, we are missing significant data from girls under the age of 15. While some countries show they may be committed to abandoning the procedure, others show little to no significant change, perhaps due to religion requirements and/or traditions. UNFPA (2018) states, “More than half of girls and women in four out of 14 countries where data is available saw FGM as a religious requirement.” However, UNFPA argues that despite it being a cultural tradition, “Culture and tradition provide a framework for human well-being, and cultural arguments cannot be used to condone violence against people, male or female.” Therefore, this is not an excuse for one not to change and adapt. To ensure safety from the hazards of certain practices, behavior should be changed; harmful procedures should and can be given up without necessarily disrespecting and/or abolishing meaningful aspects of a given culture or religion. Unfortunately, in some countries, FGM has increased in recent years promoting that the issue is challenging to completely abolish internationally, and thus may be in need of additional global responses.
In order to ensure the protection of women and girls affected by FGM and enforcement of legislation, most governments have ratified international conventions and declarations since 1948 all the way up to recently. The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development articulates that violence against women is a widespread phenomenon. To better understand, it mentions, “In a number of countries, harmful practices meant to control women’s sexuality have led to great suffering. Among them is the practice of female genital cutting, which is a violation of basic rights and a major lifelong risk to women’s health.” The procedure does not just occur in one country. As previously discussed, the practice had expanded; therefore, the victims of FGM increased as well. More women suffered as they tried to honor their husbands’ desires. More young girls, including infants, suffered so that they would later be socially accepted. As a social norm, it is challenging for a state or country to fight against the human violation alone, especially when it is recognized and practiced worldwide. Additionally, we are focusing on females – a minority group that has been faced with discrimination and inequality for over decades. Men, in which as privileged individuals run most legislations, have to come to the same terms. Not only should they recognize that there is a problem, but they should speak and take action to attack it. Garsd (2017) claimed, “We cannot please someone else’s culture while we are harming a child. It is child abuse. It is happening to minors. It is happening to someone who doesn’t have self determination.” We can also argue that we cannot please someone else’s culture while we are harming a woman. It is human abuse. It is happening to women worldwide. It is happening to someone who hasn’t been honored the same rights as a man has been born to have. By seeking legal international help, we ask men for help. We ask the most powerful. By getting the most powerful to assist, we later see smaller institutions, communities, groups, and individuals advocate and take action. Although international responses may prioritize protection and empowerment of women and girls, there may still be criticism against ruling for an international approach (Bodenner, 2015). Some may argue that it is a woman’s decision to undergo the procedure in some communities. Others will argue that they are most positive that they have found or can find the most proficient, effective way to conduct the procedure without harming the individual. In many cases, the religious traditions or cultural reasoning behind the practice closes a consideration that the procedure may be harmful in the first place; thus, there is no need for international intervening.
Female genital mutilation has been practiced for several decades for various reasons including continuing honor, ensuring purity, approaching womanhood, and more. In major cases, the procedure is primarily done to control a female’s sexuality. FGM has caused more harm and illnesses than any good – if good at all. Not only are females subjected to the horrific effects of the procedure, but they continue to be denied human rights and face discrimination. Over 30 countries are involved. From very low prevalence countries to very high prevalence country, the issue of the matter is that it still takes place despite individuals’ desires to end the practice. To express complete disapproval, national legislation, in addition to international treaties and conventions, have been established. Although several countries have demonstrated a significant decrease in FGM procedures, there are still more countries who practice it today to continue their social norm.
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