Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a tradition that includes a number of different styles of genital mutilation. The common form consists of an insignificant pinching of the genitals of a mature lady with a sharp instrument such as a knife or surgical instruments. A more serious form of the practice involves the removal of the clitoris. Afterwards the labium is sewed leaving a very small opening for penetration of urine. This procedure is normally painful and is associated with a lot of health risks. FGM is more often than not performed by female midwives, on girls as a rite of passage into adulthood. However, the practise can still be performed on young girls under the consent of the girl's parent. Mature girls may submit to the practice willingly or may be forced by societal norms and procedures.
FGM is a global concern that has been a health issue for quite a long time. Many countries especially Africa continues to practice it regardless of the risks associated in it. In some communities, it is seen as a rite of passage and all girls are expected to pass through it for them to be recognized. However, many nongovernmental organization and some governmental bodies have tried to curb the vice (Denniston, et al 1999). They have not been able to completely do away with the practice as recent data shows that it taking place on a much outsized extent than in the past. It has continued to be one of the most unrelenting, omnipresent and wordlessly tolerated violations of human rights. This paper will look at the prevalence of FGM, gives the circumstances surrounding it, the health risks associated with it, and conclude by revealing some of the ways that can be taken to prevent its persistent in West Africa.
Prevalence of FGM
According to Marcusan (2002), approximately one thousand girls in West Africa have been denied their right to human rights. They continue to suffer from the consequences of FGM, a practice they never consented to. It is good to note that, this is not happening only in Africa but it is widespread in many parts of the world, for example, Middle East and some parts of America. It is a tradition practice that has been carried out for the longest period of time. It is common among girls and women living in migrant communities in developed countries. In almost every year, more that two million girls of school going age are subjected to FGM in their adolescent years. This is not only a painful practice but also one that causes a lot of anguish and suffering in the later life. It violates the women's human rights, thus refuting them all their physical and mental uprightness. It also breaches their right to freedom from hostility and unfairness, and in the most excessive instances, of their life (Morison et al, 2001).
Marcusan (2002) observes that FMG is commonly practiced on marginalized women and girls whose voice can not be heard. It is one of the forms used to identify their gender in such communities. Some girls actually consent to it because they believe that, if they are not mutilated, they will lose their self-worth in the community. This is because FGM gives them a sense of pride and belonging. Furthermore if a girl does not do the accepted thing (that is to go through the practice), they are discriminated and segregated from their families and as a result, they lose status in the society. This profoundly entrenched community norm is so great to an extent that parents are allowing their girl child to be mutilated even if they themselves do not consent to it. The societal outlook around female genital mutilation poses a major confront to families who might otherwise desire to discard the practice.
Where is FGM Practised?
In Africa alone, FGM is practiced in more than twenty-eight countries. The most unswerving and widespread information on how the prevalence and nature of FGM is carried out is provided by Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). According to these two sources of statistics, the prevalence of FGM is expressed as a percentage of the total number of women who have gone through the practice as compared to those who have not. It is true that some girls manage to evade from being mutilated by running away from their ancestral homes. Many girls have escaped from their rural homes to the urban centers to avoid being "cut". In the urban centers, some become street girls while others are adopted by good Samaritans. This has been the case for quite some time especially since FGM education was availed in primary schools. Most governmental and non-governmental organizations have stretched their hand in enlightening young girls on the danger associated with FGM. This exercise has been extended to the parents although most of them are reluctant to it and seldom do their take heed to the information given. They argue that, they went through the practice and that there is nothing to be feared because they have their normal life like anybody else.
FGM is dominant among girls less than 15 years of age which has facade some procedural challenges, not least of which includes establishing how the process was carried out. The most current data from DHS and MICS indicate that the occurrence of FGM varies considerably from one country to another in West Africa. Little (2003) observed that in Niger prevalence of FGM was a low as 5% while as in Guinea it was almost 99%. This means that, in Guinea, almost all girls go through FGM save for the one percent that is able to run away from it. These countries also reveal a wide range of incidence: the Democratic Republic of Congo is thought to have less than 5 percent prevalence, while both Djibouti and Somalia are estimated to have prevalence around or above 90 percent. Patterns of FGM prevalence materialize when countries are grouped by region (Denniston, et al 1999).
The practice of FGM is no longer limited to countries in which it has been customarily practiced. Migration from Africa to developed countries has been a continuing trait of the post World War II period, and a lot of the migrants come from countries that practice FGM.
The Circumstances Surrounding FGM
DHS and MICS make available helpful information regarding the conditions adjoining the practice of FGM. This information includes the age of the girl child who goes through the practice, form of the mutilation and the health provider or midwife who carries out the practice. In most of the communities that perform FGM, it is usually carried out by midwives who are no skills in the profession. The girl is normally tied with ropes on the bed where the "cutting" is supposed to take place. The legs are put apart and each tied to the side of the bed. The hands are also tied up leaving the girl with no option other than subjecting to the operation. The midwife then uses her knife (which in most cases is normally blunt) and tears away the clitoris. The procedure is normally painful but the girl has to go through it.
Health risks associated with FGM
Women and girls continue to suffer from health risks associated with the harmful practices they are exposed to such as female genital mutilation. More that one million women and girls have gone through FGM which involves partial or complete removal of the external genitalia. Statistics show that about 92 million girls in Africa above the age of 12 years live with the consequences of FGM. Some of these consequences include maltreatment, sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation.
The most frequent complications include severe pain, blood loss, inability to empty the bladder, infection of the wound and damage to adjacent tissues. More severe immediate effects are shock, tetanus and blood poisoning. Most of the instruments used to perform the operation are not properly cleaned and can cause infections and spread of diseases such as Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
After a girl has gone through FGM she is deemed to be a mature woman who can be subjected to the same treatment as that received by women. She is married off at a very early age and suffers from sexual abuse (Suad, & Najmabadi, 2005). FGM marks the end of their education and are taken in by the society to work as other adults do. This includes hard labour beyond the power and ability of the young girls. Failure to comply with the societal demand attracts a punishment which is a bit difficult than the initial work.
Women who have gone through FGM have a higher chance of going through caesarean sections than those who have not. They are also likely to suffer from postpartum haemorrhage than compared to women without FGM. The death rate of babies either during birth or shortly after birth is much higher in women with FGM than those without.
During their marriage life, they do not enjoy sexual intercourse as their sensitive organs have been cut. It is only the man who enjoys sex of which he expects the woman to comply with any time he feels like. The woman continues to suffer from sexual abuse and as a result, gets many children because she is not allowed to use any form of contraceptive (Suad, & Najmabadi, 2005).
Education to marginalized women who have migrated from West Africa
One of the ways of ensuring that women are protected against FGM is by the provision of education. Most girls from marginalized areas have been discriminated against education on the basis of gender, race, and ethnicity. They are perceived as the weaker beings compared to their male counters. It is argued that there is no need to educate them because it will be of no use. A woman's role has been perceived to be in the kitchen where no skills are required. Education to women equips them with the fundamental understanding of nutrition, health and family planning skills. They get exposed to the variety of choices and the power of deciding what is good for them. They are relieved of the burden of dependent on men in making some of the simple decisions. Women education results in improved reproductive health, family health and a reduction in child mortality rates (Scully, 2009).
Education to women equips them with the fundamental understanding of nutrition, health and family planning skills. They get exposed to the variety of choices and the power of deciding what is good for them. They are relieved of the burden of dependent on men in making some of the simple decisions. Women education results in improved reproductive health, family health and a reduction in child mortality rates.
For many years, women education has been recognized as the best solution to poverty and diseases related issues. It is through women education that the Millennium Development Goals (MGD's) especially goal one, five and six are achieved. Goal one talks about poverty reduction, five is about improvement in maternal health while six talks about reducing HIV/AIDS prevalence. All these can be directly or indirectly influenced by women education. Recent studies have shown that, girls who go through their primary and post- primary education successfully tend to marry at a later age. Schools provide the opportunity for the girls to mature and make solid decisions in life. They rule out marriage at an early age and encourage concentration on their studies. In turn, the girls aim at getting higher education where they can get the necessary skills required in today's workplace. It is through education that they get good paying jobs with better salaries. After getting marriage, they get small families which they can manage by themselves. On the other hand, girls who drop out of school at an early age tend to take up low paying jobs with exploitative conditions. Some involve themselves in commercial sex to earn a living. This facilitates the spread of HIV/AIDS. According to data collected from Zambia in a research on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, it was observed that HIV/AIDS infection was higher among the non-educated women than the educated. One way of shaping a girl's destiny is giving her education (Cotton, 2007).
In the western world, education is provided to both male and female without discrimination. They have increased women education abroad. This has been facilitated by the nonprofit making organizations and the government organizations. These organizations include "the central Asia Institute and the Office of Women and Development/US Agency for International Development" they have discovered the importance of educating women and have focused on the promotion of literacy and integrated learning of writing, reading, and arithmetic skills.
Research has shown that educated women are expected to be more conscious of the significance of population control and taking health issues seriously. Women education improves household health, lowers child mortality rate and reduces population growth. Education improves the chances of accessing nutrition related information, child nurturing practices, and how to effectively diagnose diseases (Scully, 2009).
Camfed supports girls who are in need, those that have been discriminated against education and those affected by FGM and poverty. This is because these girls often face early marriages or are employed as child laborers. It has been able to help girls over the last 17 years. Camfed has seen some of the girls move through primary, secondary and tertiary levels to become accountants, lawyers or economists. It also supports women who do not make it to the tertiary level. It empowers them economically to start up their own businesses. These women are also provided with technical know how on how to run their businesses effectively as that is one of the ways of breaking the circle of poverty which is widespread in sub-Saharan areas. Education has brought hope to many of the Camfed beneficiaries. Many girls and women in the sub-Saharan areas have been able to achieve their dreams (Cotton, 2007).
The health of the adult of tomorrow is dependent on the health conditions the children are exposed to at their early life. While the girl child benefits from a number of biological advantages in terms of her survival and health, she faces social, cultural and gender-based disadvantages that place her health at risk. Many of the health problems faced by women today care as a result of FGM.
The practice is normally performed by traditional women who acquire the role from their relatives. There have been campaigns to create awareness of the dangers associated with FGM but have born little fruits because the practice is still prevalent among the African woman and those who have migrated to the developed countries. The most frequent complications include severe pain, blood loss, inability to empty the bladder, infection of the wound and damage to adjacent tissues. More severe immediate effects are shock, tetanus and blood poisoning.
Women education is important is eradicating poverty, promoting good health, economic development, gender equality and reduction of HIV/AIDS. For many years, women education has been recognized as the best solution for solving poverty and diseases related issues. It is through women education that the Millennium Development Goals (MGD's) especially goal one, five and six are achieved. Goal one talks about poverty reduction, five is about improvement in maternal health while six talks about reducing HIV/AIDS prevalence.
Girls' education can be promoted by increasing their access to primary schools. Camfed observed that increasing access to education does not necessarily mean interfering with its quality. It requires expansion of the available investments and infrastructure to avoid straining the existing ones. Camfed has benefited many girls and women in Africa
The Millennium Development Goals laid out measurable goals and indicators of development that are of direct relevance to ending FGM – namely to promote gender equality and empower women, to reduce child mortality and to improve maternal health.