06 February 2016
Today, 06/02/2016, is the Interbational Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. A 27/11/2012 press release by Amnesty International UK said:
The adoption yesterday of a resolution against female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee is a major boost to civil society organisations fighting for an end to the abusive practice, Amnesty International has said.
This is the first time the Assembly’s Third Committee, which addresses social, humanitarian and human rights issues, has adopted a resolution on FGM – the cutting of a girl’s genitalia clitoris often without anaesthetic in conditions that risk potentially fatal infection.
The resolution is expected to be endorsed by the UN’s General Assembly in December. Although not legally binding, UN General Assembly resolutions carry considerable moral and political weight.
FGM is common in 28 countries in Africa as well as in Yemen, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia and in certain ethnic groups in South America. However it is an issue of worldwide concern, said Amnesty, with Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in diaspora communities also at risk of being subjected to FGM.
Then on 27/12/2012,
A resolution against female genital mutilation (FGM) has been endorsed by the UN general assembly in a move hailed by Amnesty International. Today’s result was a first for the UN’s general assembly. …
“The UN resolution places FGM in a human rights framework and calls for a holistic approach, stressing as it does the importance of empowerment of Women's rights's, promotion and protection of sexual and reproductive health, and breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence.”
From Wikipedia — FGM "…is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. Typically carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade, with or without anaesthesia, FGM is concentrated in 27 African countries, Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan, and found elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, and among diaspora communities around the world."
By Johnuniq – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37848398
In addition, there are growing numbers in Indonesia. Here is an article from 2014 specifically dealing with FGM in Indonesia.
The Guardian — It's hot, noisy and chaotic, and almost everyone is smiling.
Twelve-year-old Suminah is not. She looks like she wants to punch somebody. Under her white hijab, which she has yanked down over her brow like a hoodie, her eyes have the livid, bewildered expression of a child who has been wronged by people she trusted. She sits on a plastic chair, swatting away her mother's efforts to placate her with a party cup of milk and a biscuit. Suminah is in severe pain. An hour earlier, her genitals were mutilated with scissors as she lay on a school desk.
During the morning, 248 Indonesian girls undergo the same ordeal. Suminah is the oldest, the youngest is just five months. It is April 2006 and the occasion is a mass ceremony to perform sunat perempuan or "female circumcision" that has been held annually since 1958 by the Bandung-based Yayasan Assalaam, an Islamic foundation that runs a mosque and several schools. The foundation holds the event in the lunar month of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and pays parents 80,000 rupiah (£6) and a bag of food for each daughter they bring to be cut. …
Suminah will be 18 now; a grown woman. She could well be married, or at least betrothed. Soon enough she will probably have her own kids. I hope she's forgotten her pain, but held on to her rage.
The how and why of female genital cutting varies around the globe.
The 'how' :
Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types:
- Type 1 – Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
- Type 2 – Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
- Type 3 – Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
- Type 4 – Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
As shown on the map above, FGM is wide spread across west Africa to north-central and north-east Africa. It is here that the type of FGM varies. The following April 2015 article goes into the "why", the culture of cutting.
The Atlantic — She [Bettina Shell-Duncan, an anthropology professor at the University of Washington] also challenges some common misconceptions around FGC, like the belief that it is forced on women by men. In fact, elderly women often do the most to perpetuate the custom. I thought African girls were held down and butchered against their will, but some of them voluntarily and joyfully partake in the ritual. I thought communities would surely abandon the practice once they learned of its negative health consequences. And yet, in Shell-Duncan's experience, most people who practice FGC recognize its costs—they just think the benefits outweigh them. …
Shell-Duncan: The girl was 16. Which was young by their standards. Mostly they’re 18, 19, 20, around that.
Women were going to a dispensary the day before and they were getting antibiotics and an anti-tetanus injection. They would get a clean disposable razor. Before they had a traditional knife that was used, but they stopped using that, and now every bride has her own clean razor.
Khazan: And you watched this unfold?
Shell-Duncan: Well, they invited me. They said, “There’s a wedding going on, do you want to go?” And I was like, “Alright.” They took me to this blended-branch hut. They brought in the bride, and they brought in the circumciser, a woman, and a couple of other women followed. And I just sat on the edge in this tiny hut, and watched what was going on. It all happened pretty quickly. They had one woman working, and other women held each leg. The circumciser came in and lifted this cloth that the woman had been wearing draped around her. The circumciser kneeled, and did basically this.
[Flicks her wrist twice.]
And it was done. They poured some water with herbs boiled in it over her body. They moved her up to this little loft.
After a little time everybody looked to see if the cut was okay, and after that, they started brewing some tea. One woman went outside and announced the circumcision was successful. People started roasting lamb, meat. A little while later, warriors came over to the hut and started singing and dancing praises to the bride and the groom. This went on for hours. There was this complete celebration. I was completely perplexed. I sat there just sort of, you know, “Did anyone just see what I just saw?”
Khazan: Was the girl like, “No, don’t do this to me!” or was she like, “This is happening.”?
Shell-Duncan: No, no, she was proud. She sat there stoic and looked up at a focal point. She didn’t flinch, and that’s apparently a really important part of showing your maturity: Can you withstand the pain? It shows that you have the maturity to face the hardship that is coming as a woman. …
Shell-Duncan: There's no question this is a global-health issue. In the U.S., adult women are capable of giving consent for surgical procedures. But what would it take to get a woman in an African country to the same position of being able to give consent? Social pressures [in the nations that practice FGC] are so strong that no woman could ever opt out. Everybody would come down on her. That’s the problem. Why can we give consent and they can’t?
Click through this excellent article for more about the 'why'. For the western world, FGM is anathema to our way of life. But as people move about the globe, many of their cultural practices follow. In the west however, FGM is done in secret because it is against the law and the law is enforced. In some African countries, FGM is against the law but the laws are not enforced as vigorously, or at all.
In another article, a former excisor now activist against FGM, tells her story of being an excisor for 30 years.
Huffington Post — As my mother was an excisor, it was inevitable I would become one, too. I started as an assistant to my mother-in-law, helping whenever she excised girls. When my mother-in-law died, a few years after my own mother had passed away, many women from my community were insistent I take over.
Even though I'd only ever observed excision, I felt I had enough knowledge needed to perform excision. After much hesitation, I started accepting regular requests from the community as the "work" is profitable. Practitioners are economically stable. They earn their own wage and they carry a lot of social prestige. …
Several years ago, Plan International and its partner organization ERAD came to our village to raise awareness about the risks of FGM and the associated gynecological problems. Villagers were shown photos and videos. Psychosocial support was also provided for women and they were able to understand more about the issues they faced.
The link between female genital cutting and cases of keloid, dysmenorrhea and urinary incontinence became clear. Five years ago, I decided not to practice excision any more. Soon after, my village decided to ban FGM.
Here is an article on the Care2 site posted by Evelyn, a fairly well known human rights activist on Care2: The Fight Against FGM.
Also, here are two petitions against FGM:
Help Stop Female Genital Mutilation – Urge Congress to Pass the International Violence Against Women
Stop FGM in Indonesia