“Two women held my legs and hands so tight that I could not move. Still from the background I could hear the women singing and I felt that they were celebrating my pain, but the real reason for the songs was to diffuse the cries so that nobody can hear me crying. Then I felt a very sharp pain between my legs. This was a turning point in my life. The pain I felt can’t be described; thinking of it brings cold shivers inside me”. –Kezia Bianca, YMCA of Kenya.
On December 20th, 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/67/146 in which they called “upon states, the UN System civil society and all stakeholders to continue to observe February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation”.
Over 140 million women and girls have been affected by the gruesome practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the 20th Century. Every year, more than 3 million more are at risk. That’s 8000 girls per day!Often, FGM ends in irreparable psychological damage and leads to severe infections and sometimes even death.
Many believe that this issue pertains only to Africa. But it is worldwide .The European Parliament estimates 500,000 women and girls who live in Europe are suffering from the consequences of FGM. Some cases of FGM have even been found in Latin America and in Asia.
In an Interagency Statement, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, and WHO, confirm that the practice of FGM is dropping around the world. Although the exact number is unknown, many who used to practice FGM have been documented leaving the practice completely. (For access to the full Statement, click here).
Around the world, many nations have even gone as far as having to make FGM specifically illegal. In Africa, 18 nations have made specific laws against FGM that are more specific than assault charges. In 12 industrialized nations that have immigrants from countries that commonly practice FGM, laws against FGM have also been put into place.
FGM has been used throughout history to limit female sexual activity. Civilizations as old as the Egyptians, Australian Aboriginals and African tribes have used FGM to remove the clitoris. However, Kezia protests that values are the best control of sexual activity, “My community practices FGM type one which is partial or total removal of the clitoris, because they believe that the clitoris is unclean as it makes one sexually active. I strongly oppose this and believe that refraining from sexual relations before marriage is all about one’s attitude and values and it does not have anything to do with the removal of the clitoris”. (For Kezia Bianca’s full story, click here).
Complications are both short term and long term. In the short term, severe pain and discomfort reigns. In the Long-term, the complications worsen with FGM leading to repeated urinary infections, reproductive tract infections, infertility, obstruction of menstrual flow and even obstructed labor. Psychological effects have also been documented. (For more information on physical and psychological complications of FGM, click here).
For more information on FGM and how you can help, please visit the various links throughout this post, or you can go to:
The United Nations- Women Watch or World Health Organization- FGM Page
To participate in ending FGM globally or in your country, we suggest visiting the UN and WHO website first followed by looking for Non-Profit Organizations (NGOs) in your area or country of interest.
Be pro-active, make sure to research the organization before committing to a donation or volunteering.