Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a traditional harmful practice that involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. In addition, every year, an estimated 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation, the majority of whom are cut before they turn 15 years old.
Female genital mutilation is a horrendous injustice that occurs everyday in this world. Female genital mutilation is wrong for several reasons. It is wrong because women can experience physical health consequences, psychological health consequences and it is a form of gender discrimination. In societies that practice female genital mutilation women will never be considered equal they will always be considered below men. According to the World Health Organization, "Female genital mutilation constitutes all procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons. Firstly, female genital mutilation causes serious health problems to women who have been mutilated. Women who have the most sever mutilation will suffer from health problems for their whole lives. The procedure is often carried out with crude tools used for mutilating the genitalia. Examples of these tools are scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass, or razor blades (World Health Organization). In addition, the mutilation usually occurs in an unsanitary room. These unsanitary conditions can lead to the spread of HIV and infections of the genitalia and surrounding areas. Anesthetics are rarely used and relatives must hold down the female screaming in pain while she is being mutilated. On account of this severe pain the female usual goes into shock, the massive blood loss does not help either. Female genital mutilation normally causes a hemorrhage in the genital area. The cutting of the clitoral artery causes the hemorrhage and massive blood loss. Moreover, women will feel pain while urinating and will remain fearful of urinating for a long time. Women will also suffer from persistent pelvic infections.
Female Genital Mutilation chauvinistic linkage possibly accrues from its religious justification. Adherents of religions such as Islam, Jewish religion, and African traditional religions points erroneously to religion as a foundation for the practices of female circumcision. Perhaps the most common similarity between the three religions is the strong hand that males hold in religion (Monagan, Sharmon Lynnette, 2010, p.9. An analysis of the countries where FGM is common such as Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Sudan indicate a strong adherence to Islam. Islam as practiced in these countries limit the role of women in the society. However, the linkage of FGM to Islam and these religions is a misleading justification. Saudi Arabia and Libya are examples of Islamic countries but do not practice the FGM as practiced in Egypt. In addition, African religions, however diverse, have fully embraced Christianity, which for the most part, rules out the role of FGM as an initiation to womanhood (Caldwell &Orubuloye, 2000). Rachelle Casman (2007) argues that FGM ought to be analyzed in respect to cultural relativism. According to her, westerners championing for the abolishment of FGM often forget that human values are not universal. In order to understand the concept of FGM and its symbolic meaning to the African culture, one ought to step into the culture and explore the meaning without ethnocentrism (p. 1). This way, westerners would be seen as self-imposing western values on a people, but fighting a practice on the grounds of its health risks or its disobedience to universal human rights. In this respect, FGM becomes threatening to the lives of millions of women and an inhibition to the success of the movement for equality between women and men. Understanding the concept of FGM from this perspective requires that cultural relativism becomes a cornerstone in the study of Female Genital Mutilation (p. 3). The concept of cultural relativism provides an argument that human values differ across societies and should be responded to while taking consideration of the differences. Female Genital Mutilation is an example of one of the differences.
To summarize, such education should enlighten communities about the falsities of the myths they cling on to and how they are in actual fact untrue. The ‘Capabilities Approach’ is fundamental to this process of education as it informs the public of how FGM can harm and worsen the capabilities of women. Education however will not work alone and must be accompanied by a series of other policy measures, namely legislation, regulatory policies and reproductive services. It is therefore legitimate for states like the UK to intervene to halt practices like FGM, according to the circumstances outlined in this essay and through the policy recommendations suggested.
Ben-Ari, Nirit. “Changing tradition to safeguard women.” Africa Renewal. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2012.
Caldwell, John, I. Orubuloye, and Pat Caldwell. “Female Genital Mutilation: Conditions of Decline.” Population Research and Policy Review Vol. 19.No. 3 (2000): pp. 233-254. Print.
Cassman, Rachelle. Fighting to Make the Cut: Female Genital Cutting Studied within the Context of Cultural Relativism. New York: Northwestern University School of Law, 2007. Print.
Momoh, Comfort. Female Genital Mutilation. London: Radcliffe Publishing, 2005. Print.
Monagan, Sharmon Lynnette. “Patriarchy: Perpetuating the Practice of Female Genital Mutilation.” Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences Vol 2,.No 1 (2010): 160-181. Print.