It’s incredibly important that we continue to promote health education and make sure everyone is aware of the risks involved in this terrible practice, which still continues today.
Mutilation of the clitoris, or “female circumcision” as it is known in many countries, is a practice that involves the partial or complete removal of tissue from the female genital organs, particularly the clitoris.
Many cultures, especially those of indigenous African decent, have continued this atrocious practice since ancient times as part of their beliefs and customs.
But in recent years and with the support of the World Health Organization, many countries and indigenous groups have ceased to do it because of the tremendous risks that it poses to girls who are subjected to this painful procedure.
On June 9, 2015, Nigeria celebrated a historical new beginning and an end to this centuries-old practice, by becoming the 23rd African nation to ban the practice of genital mutilation in girls.
This is a tremendously important moment for the fight against genital mutilation because Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with an estimated female population of over 20 million.
It is critical to completely eradicate this abhorrent practice, which sadly still exists in 29 countries in Africa and Asia.
What is genital mutilation?
There, a woman (the surgeon) waits to perform this traumatic procedure in under 15 minutes using knives.
Often in darkness, she checks the girl’s genitals almost blindly and, using a knife or another sharp object, proceeds to cut away part or all of the child’s clitoris, labia minor, and labia major.
Under such conditions, without anesthesia and proper sanitation, the child screams and cries because of the terrible agony it causes. Meanwhile, outside, her family celebrates the fact that the girl is now ready to become a woman.
After this “procedure,” the search begins for a husband who will give the family a good endowment in exchange for his new “woman.” This all depends, of course, on whether the girl survives the dangers of this mutilation of an organ that will play an important role in her new life.
Many girls die from bleeding or shock due to the severe pain and trauma. Others, meanwhile, succumb to serious infections that result from a surgical procedure performed outside hygienic conditions.
Because of this, many years ago, the World Health Organization officially labeled the practice female genital mutilation, because it lacks basic sanitary measures and is usually performed with the intention of depriving the woman of sexual pleasure for the remainder of her life.
As if that weren’t enough, it has been shown that genital mutilation can lead to serious complications for girls and women, such as continued bleeding, urinary problems, cysts, infections, infertility, and difficulties in childbirth.
The shameful numbers
It is estimated that worldwide, four girls under the age of 15 suffer genital mutilation every minute. According to non-governmental organizations, there are 137 million women who have undergone this horrific procedure, in spite of the numerous protests and constant fight against the practice.
Perhaps the most shocking piece of information is that as long as 29 countries in Africa and Asia continue to permit this practice, some 86 million additional girls could experience genital mutilation by the year 2030.
Even in countries that have banned the practice by law, they have struggled to completely eradicate it; in spite of it being illegal, some cultures resist the change.
Fortunately, the ongoing work of NGOs and major global health organizations has been met with success, and the recent decision in Nigeria is a clear example of this.
It is critical to continue to promote health education and share the awareness of the risks that this terrible procedure poses to girls and women worldwide.
While it’s important to allow indigenous cultures and traditions to persevere, it is also essential that we raise awareness and change the pervasive mentality surrounding this practice that has claimed thousands of lives and still causes much suffering today.