Most of us know what it feels like to get a razor cut while trying to shave ourselves for hygienic purposes. Thankfully, all it involves is an ‘ouch’, followed by a sharp pain and beads of blood crowding the wound. Imagine being cut down there against your own wish, by a rusty blade coated with blood of so many others. Horrifying, isn’t it?
This nightmare is a reality for more than 125 million girls who have been cut in over 29 countries spread around Africa and the Middle East. According to WHO, Female genital mutilation or FGM/C as it is commonly known as includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure is commonly done in unhygienic settings by traditional service providers who often use unsterilized razors and blades. FGM/C not only interferes with the normal menstruation routine of a girl, it has other devastating consequences like cysts, infertility, neo-natal deaths and recurring infections which can ultimately be life-threatening.
Girls between infancy and age of 15 are most susceptible to this dangerous practice which has absolutely no health benefits. In Africa, more than 3 million girls are estimated to be a victim of this evil. FGM/C has been identified as major Human Rights Violence issue all over the world, and also been banned in countries like UK and USA. However, all efforts are made to keep it alive by sending young girls to the parts of the world where it is still practiced and this trend is known as ‘vacation cutting’. Apart from being a Human Rights issue, it is also a reiteration of the existent gender inequality.
So you might ask, “Why does an inhuman practice such as this still exist?” The roots of FGM are entrenched in socio-cultural as well as religious grounds. One of the main arguments in favour of this is the obsession with female virginity. It is believed that cutting of the clitoris leads to reduced libido and hence acts as a deterrent for women who might feel like engaging in pre-marital sex. Some communities justify it as an age old tradition meant for the beautification of female body. Others try and establish links with religion to legalize its presence. Sometimes the social pressure is so high that even unwilling parents readily agree to let their daughters become a victim of this gruesome act.
The WHO along with UNICEF has been trying to put an end to this tradition since 1997. In 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation. There has been increased medicalization of this procedure which has lessened some of the risks but is absolutely harmful in the long term. It would only result in justification of FGM/C on medical grounds. According to studies conducted by UNICEF, more than 884 million women are at the risk of being cut by the year 2050 if the laws made are not stricter and progress is not accelerated. A historical verdict has been passed in Nigeria recently by Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, whereby; FGM/C has been banned under the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015. This is a welcome change and CSR looks forward to similar ones in the future. Let’s raise our voices against this oppressive practice not very far from home.
About the Author
“Sohini Chanda is a Research Assistant in Department of Sociology at Hyderabad Central University. Her interest lies in the fields of Gender and Sexuality.”