United Nations. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday urging countries to ban female genital mutilation, calling it an “irreparable, irreversible abuse” that threatens about three million girls annually.
The resolution, which is not legally binding, asks the 193 UN members to “take all necessary measures, including enacting and enforcing legislation to prohibit female genital mutilations and to protect women and girls from this form of violence.”
The World Health Organization estimates that about 140 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation. Campaigners liken the psychological effects of female genital mutilation to those of rape.
Female genital mutilation — the partial or total removal of external female genitalia — is prevalent in 28 African countries and parts of the Middle East and Asia, notably Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan and Indonesia.
It is carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons and is also known as female circumcision.
Female genital mutilation is also found in industrialized countries among some immigrant populations. Countries where the practice is near universal include Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinea.
The resolution, which was adopted by consensus, also expressed concern about “evidence of an increase in the incidence of female genital mutilations being carried out by medical personnel in all regions in which they are practiced.”
“This practice, justified on false pretenses by supposed cultural and religious tenets, remains a taboo subject, misunderstood and misinterpreted in several societies,” Burkina Faso’s UN Ambassador Der Kogda told the General Assembly. Burkina Faso has led the move to try and stamp out the practice.
“We need to break the silence that has surrounded FGM [female genital mutilation]… and move towards its elimination,” Kogda said.
Some practitioners believe female genital mutilation will prevent sex before marriage and promiscuity afterwards; others say it is part of preparing a girl for womanhood and is hygienic. Opponents say it can also cause bleeding, shock, cysts and infertility, as well as severe psychological effects.
Below are some facts about FGM:
* An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM. In Africa alone, it is thought that three million girls may undergo FGM every year.
* FGM is prevalent in 28 African countries and parts of the Middle East and Asia, notably Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan and Indonesia. It is also found in industrialized countries among some immigrant populations. Countries where the practice is near universal include Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinea.
* There are several types of FGM. The most serious is called infibulation and involves the partial or total removal of the genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening. Clitoridectomy is the partial/total removal of the clitoris and/or hood. Excision is the partial/total removal of the clitoris and labia. FGM also includes all other harmful practices to the genitalia like pricking, piercing, scraping and cauterizing.
* FGM is mostly carried out between infancy and 15. The procedure is arranged by the women in the family.
* It is usually performed by traditional cutters who may use anything from razor blades to scissors, broken glass or tin can lids. However there is an increasing trend in some countries like Indonesia for hospitals to perform FGM.
* FGM is found among Muslim and Christian communities. It is also practiced by followers of some indigenous religions. People often believe FGM is required by religion, but it is not mentioned in the Koran or any other religious text.
* Reasons for carrying out FGM vary. Some communities believe it preserves a girl’s virginity, prevents promiscuity after marriage and increases male sexual pleasure. Parents say it is an act of love because it purifies the girl, brings her status and prepares her for marriage. It is also mistakenly believed to enhance fertility and make childbirth safer for the baby.
* FGM can cause severe bleeding, pain, shock, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. It increases the risk of labor complications and newborn deaths. The procedure itself can prove fatal.
* A recent study in Iraq found girls who had had FGM were more prone to post-traumatic stress disorders, depression and other psychological disturbances than girls who hadn’t. Campaigners liken the psychological effects to those suffered by rape victims. The silence surrounding FGM may also compound the girl’s sense of isolation.
* FGM has been banned by 20 of the 28 FGM-practicing countries in Africa as well as many industrialized countries. But enforcement of the law is usually weak and prosecutions are rare.
* FGM violates a plethora of international treaties which many FGM-practicing countries have agreed to. These include the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Maputo Protocol on women’s rights adopted by the African Union.