Cultures differ. What is practicable in one culture might not be acceptable in another. Similarly, just because certain practices have existed for centuries , and are widespread and are widely accepted in some cultures do not make them ethically justifiable.
Such a practice is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision, which involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs.
Research has shown that over 200 million girls and women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) in Africa, Middle East and Asia. Most of these girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually and Nigeria is inclusive.
This was one of the submissions of an online sensitization via zoom organized by the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists(NAWOJ) Edo State Chapter on the dangers of FGM.
In such cultures, FGM is often accepted by both women and men. Many women believe that FGM ensures that they will be accepted by their communities. They do not know that it is not practiced in most of the countries of the world.
The World Health Organisation(WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund have jointly stated that FGM causes unacceptable harm and have called for its complete eradication.
Immediate complications of FGM include hemorrhage, shock , infection, urine retention(often leading to urinary tract infections) and injury to adjacent tissue (sometimes resulting in incontinence).
Long-term complications include bleeding, anemia, difficulty in urinating, recurrent urinary tract infections, incontinence, chronic pelvic infections, infertility, vulvas abscesses, scarring , difficulties menstruating, sexual dysfunction, and problems in pregnancy and childbirth.
It has been suggested that these harmful consequences could be reduced while maintaining the deeply-rooted FGM tradition where the procedure performed by trained medical professionals in hygienic settings. This trend to ‘’medicalize’’ the procedure is arising in several settings , including Egypt and Kenya.
However,WHO has consistently and unequivocally advised that FGM , in any of its forms , should not be practiced by any health professional in any setting –including hospitals or other health establishments,
If an individual reaches the age of consent and wants to have the procedure done in a country where it is legal, then that is her decision and her right , says Dr. Ian Askew, a Senior Programme Associate with the Population Council, which seeks to eradicate the practice.
‘’But FGM is usually performed on children or women too young to give consent, and performing FGC without consent is a clear violation of their basic human rights.
In Kenya and Mali, the ministries of health have explicitly banned the practice in their facilities and by their staff, but the impact of these policies is not clear’’ says Dr. Askew.
‘’Whether directives banning FGM will lead to clandestine cutting by health professionals , renewed use of traditional FGM practitioners, or elimination of the practice is not known.’’
Institutions working to eliminate FGM generally think that changing beliefs that perpetuate FGM should be the focus of interventions seeking to eradicate this harmful practice , says Dr. Laila Nawar , a regional advisor to the Population Council in Cairo , Egypt.
In Mali , the Population Council has encouraged health practitioners to cease practicing FGM, and urged them to persuade clients to discontinue the practice.
Ditto in Nigeria, a lot of efforts have gone into sensitizing mothers and parents discouraging FG and this has been yielding positive results . However, efforts should go further to penetrate the hinterlands , the rural areas ,to be sure that what operates in the towns and cities should also be applicable to the rural dwellers.
The good thing is that more people are now speaking against the harmful practice even though some health practitioners still accept to perform FGM on girls brought to them by desperate parents who still make their children or wards undergo the excruciating pains of FGM for fear of dire spiritual consequences if they did otherwise.
People think that religion advocates cutting to ensure that a girl stay virtuous and pure to prevent promiscuity.
Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) will be drastically reduced if there is a convincing legislation in most of the African Countries (Nigeria inclusive ) and widespread sensitization at the grassroots.