Female Genital Cutting, Female Genital Mutilation and Female Circumcision all refer to one and the same thing.
The above terminologies can be broken down into 4 parts as classified by The World Health Organization (WHO).
1. Involves the excision of the prepuce with or without excision of part or the entire clitoris
2. Excision of the prepuce and clitoris together with partial or total excision of the labia minora
3. Excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening, also known as infibulations, this is the most extreme form and constitutes 15 per cent of all cases. It involves the use of thorns, silk or catgut to stitch the two sides of the vulva. A bridge of scar tissue then forms over the vagina, which leaves only a small opening (from the size of a matchstick head) for the passage of urine and menstrual blood.
4. Includes pricking, piercing or incision of the clitoris and/or the labia; stretching of the clitoris and or the labia; cauterisation or burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissues, scraping of the vaginal orifice or cutting (Gishiri cuts) of the vagina and introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina. In Africa alone 100 _140 million girls undergo this ritual annually.
Even though the practice has been outlawed it continues unabated as it has for the last 50 to 60 years. Reasons for the persistence of this harmful practice include….
1. Cultural and traditional customs
3. Controlling the woman’s sexuality
4. Social pressure
In as much as the injurious practice affects the woman it also has a detrimental effect on the communities and countries that engage in it.
1. Education as the girl is often forced to drop out of school because she is now considered eligible for marriage
2. Poverty as an uneducated girl is not in a position to be financially independent and will therefore depend on her husband for everything.
3. Child mortality escalates as the damage done during FGM affects both the child and the mother. Approximately 50% of mothers and children die during child birth
4. HIV chances of infection are higher as the instruments used during FGM are not sterilized The minor form of Female Genital Cutting is when the clitoris is removed the severe form of FCG is when all external genital is removed and the vaginal opening is stitched almost closed. Only a small space is left for passing urine.
This is the same procedure that happens during FGM. “Cutting” however seem to be more acceptable and many communities embrace it as it translates to the same terminology used in most native languages and is not as judgmental as the term mutilation. Female Genital Mutilation is a term commonly used by women’s health and human rights organizations. The term mutilation is used in order to emphasize the gross human rights violation that girls go through during FGM.
Apart from FGM being a very traumatic experience, complications arise that affects the girl for the rest of her life. These include server pain, shock, hemorrhage, urine retention, damage to the genital region, fistula to name a few. Hence the term multination is appropriately used to capture the injustice that the girl goes through. The communities that practice FGM however reject the terminology as they perceive it to be an attack on their culture and prefer FGC (Female Genital Cutting) as being more acceptable and describe effectively what their daughters go through. Female Circumcision is widely linked to male circumcision and therefore does not bring out the serious implications and consequences that follow after FGM. It does not seem to represent the serious and harmful effects both physical and physiological the girl suffers during and after genital mutilation. Female circumcision fails to high light the different types of cutting as classified by the World Health Organization therefore making it more acceptable to outsiders just as male circumcision is widely acknowledged as a harmless cultural practice.