What is FGM?
FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is a serious violation of children’s rights happening across the globe. The practice is historic and one of tradition, rather than religion. No religion advocates for FGM, it is seen more of a symbolic practice passed down through generations. In remote places women see it as normal and as a result do not have the knowledge to resist.
FGM is a violation of human rights, a form of child abuse and a source of violence against women. FGM has no health benefit whatsoever. The World Health Organisation defines FGM as “any procedure that injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. The procedure can be carried out at any age, sometimes at birth but usually between the ages of 4 and 15 years old.
The practice of FGM causes an array of medical issues both immediately and in the long term. In the short term, the procedure can cause hemorrhaging, sever pain, excessive bleeding, infection and death (due to shock caused from the bleeding or pain). In the long term, women can suffer from infertility, sever complications during menstruation (depending on the type of FGM she has been subjected to), increase risk of injury during child birth, increased risk of newborn death and psychological damage.
What is being done to combat FGM?
The WHO has initiated great efforts to end FGM since 1997, as well as a wide variety of international organisations (including the UN, EU and Council of Europe). The practice is considered a serious breach of a number of human rights. It breaches the right to health, freedom from violence and is a form of child abuse.
Many international treaties and agreements have been made to combat the practice. International monitoring bodies have been established in an effort to end FGM. Laws prohibiting FGM have been passed in danger countries, as well as in a wide array of countries. FGM is usually carried out in line with tradition so ending it is not as simple as passing a law.
Societal change is needed in countries where FGM occurs most frequently. Cultural development is needed to fully end the practice. The tradition is one based on preserving a girl’s purity or as a passage from girlhood to marriage. Many parents genuinely believe that they are doing the best thing for their child.
Current Status of FGM
It is estimated that over 200 million women alive today have undergone FGM. Approximately 3 million girls are subjected to the procedure worldwide every year (including 23,000 in the UK). 3,000 girls in Ireland are at risk of FGM today. FGM is of course illegal in Ireland and the UK but many are taken back to their home country to undergo the procedure.
Despite great efforts to combat FGM it still occurs far too regularly. Girls who undergo FGM are subjected to severe pain that can last a life time. The cruel nature of this practice means it has to end. Its effects can be fatal.
FGM is a serious form of child abuse and breaches women’s and children’s rights. It’s practice is widespread and occurs in many countries around the world. It’s time to end this tradition to preserve the lives of girls around the world and uphold their human rights.
The best way to combat FGM is through awareness and international cooperation. Laws already passed must be readily enforced. FGM must be brought to the forefront of foreign policy to end this cruel tradition and save lives. Many governments are committed to ending FGM, awareness is key to holding them to their promise.