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Let’s join fight against FGM

BY: Junior Graphic
The writer

Imagine being a young girl in an elementary school going to the playground to play with girls your age and being asked if you were “CUT”.

A no answer subjected you to seclusion from the other girls as they would see you as different from them and would not associate with you. You then pressurised your mother to get you cut as well simply because you would like to feel belonged and enjoy your life as a young girl.

Your mother did not give you any explanation to what the whole ‘cutting’ was about but went ahead to get you cut, only for you to discover that it was not something encouraging and could not be reversed. This is the exact story of Hibo Wardere, a Somali-born activist and campaigner against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  

Female Genital Mutilation is the brutal act of cutting, piercing, removing, scraping or sewing of the vagina in attempts to circumcise the female. As the name suggests, FGM is commonly done on females. Young girls aged 0-14 are eligible to undergo this disgusting act. In some cases, older girls too go through this act. It is normally done by a trusted older family member (woman) or a midwife. (WHO)

 Types of FGM
There are four types of FGM. The first type is the partial or whole removal of the clitoris. The second type is the partial or whole removal of the clitoris and inner labia. The third type, also known as “Infibulation'”, is the partial or whole removal of the clitoris, the inner labia and the outer majora labia.

The fourth type is normally done by piercing, cauterising and scraping the vaginal area. In the third type, the remaining skin is pulled together and sewn and in some places, it’s sutured (stitched) together with Acacia thorns.

This leaves an incredibly small opening, the size of a pea, and that is where the girls are expected to menstruate and urinate.

FGM is normally done when a girl is going to be sold off to a man to marry in an attempt to “purify” her before marriage. In some parts of the world, FGM is believed to maintain a girl’s hygiene and used as a way to “preserve” a girl’s virginity. More so, it is believed to decrease the chances of a girl being raped or sexually assaulted. 

Health implications of FGM

The exercise is typically carried out with special knives, scissors, glass, blades and scalpel.

Most of these special “tools” can cause dangerous and deadly infections because they are not clean or sterilised and have been used frequently on different girls.

Furthermore, most victims are not under anaesthetics, making the process extremely painful.  

FGM can cause numerous health implications such as urination problems, menstrual problems, haemorrhage, abnormal scarring, infections, keloids, HIV, difficulty during childbirth, infertility and death. Despite these implications, persons who perform FGM defend the act, stating that the process done by their ancestors “purifies the girl” and “keeps her clean” for religious purposes.   

This act is not just disgusting, but it also promotes misogynistic and sexist ideals by brainwashing young girls into thinking that they’re being cut for good reasons, when in reality there’s no benefit for them. The private parts of these young girls are damaged and re-sculpted for the sole purpose of pleasing the girl’s husband during intercourse, while the girl lies there feeling nothing but pain and suffering.  

Once girls are cut, it becomes an unforgettable experience and a monster to live with for the rest of their lives. This act is insensitive and irreversible. The mental and negative social effects associated with FGM are almost unrecoverable. Examples are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety which can affect the victims for a lifetime.
 
It is child abuse, sexual abuse and oppression?
One of the main reasons why FGM seems like an unspoken topic is due to its sensitivity, but I believe that should be the main reason why we need to be advocates for victims and create more awareness.

If we all come together to educate one another, create a physical and mental safe place for the victims who have undergone FGM and put in place laws that will punish perpetrators for this horrifying act, we may eradicate completely this menace which is done against the will of young girls in our society.

This article was written in honour of International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation observed every February 6 as directed by the United Nations.  
 
 Maame Ekuba Bervell-Ackah (Grade 9)
Tema International School