Female genital mutilation has lasting physical, medical and mental consequences that needs to be discussed so that girls and women no longer have to suffer in silence.
According to world health organization (WHO) female genital mutilation is all procedure that involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
This practice is deep-rooted in gender disparity, cultural uniqueness and ideas about purity, eathetics, modesty, status and honor. Moreover, it acts as a trial to manage women’s sexual desire thus promoting chastity and fidelity. It is estimated according to WHO that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. Furthermore , there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years old. This act of female genital mutilation can apparently create a partway for infectious disease to thrive into the female genitalia, as well as other parts of the body, there by resulting to serious health complication . Nigeria previously recorded the highest number of cases in the world accounting for about one quarter of the estimated 115-130 million circumcised women in the world.
Types of FGM
Okeke, et al, identified the following types of female genital cutting/mutilation practiced by Nigerians:
Type 1- clitoridectomy
This is the least form of the practice as it involves the removal of the hood of the clitoris or part of the clitoris.
The removal of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora.
Infibulation Removal of the clitoris, labia minora and the adjacent side of labia majora as well as stitching of the vaginal opening leaving an opening the size of a pinhead to allow flow of urine and menstrual blood.
unclassified forms, Other unclassified forms of FGM may involve pricking, stretching, cauterization, or inserting herbs into the vagina.
Reasons Why People Practice FGM
This practice happens to be one of most serious forms of violence against the girl child/woman and it is practiced for a number of reasons as identified by the World Health Organization.
✓This deals with attenuation of sexual desire in female, maintain chastity and virginity before marriage and fidelity during marriage and increase male sexual pleasure.
✓Most societies believe in this practice in order to identify with cultural heritage, initiate girls into womanhood, social cohesion and social acceptance.
✓Among some societies, the external female genitals are considered unclean and unsightly, so it is removed to promote hygiene and to provide aesthetic appeal.
✓Female genital mutilation is practiced in number of communities under the mistaken beliefs that it is demanded by certain religions.
✓To enhance fertility and promote child survival for better marriage prospect and to help delivery of babies.
Implications of FGM as Portal for Microbial Infections
This practice has the ability to induce secondary infections resulting from microbial pathogens. Generally there is an increased risk of adverse health outcomes with increased severity of FGM, WHO is opposed to all forms of FGM and is emphatically against the practice being carried out by health care providers (medicalization).
Female Genital Mutilation has several health complications. This practice has been linked to the increased risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and complications of pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID). STIs are an important public health problem worldwide as the global incidence of STIs is estimated by the WHO to be in excess of 125 million per year, mainly affecting developing countries.
Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). Partial occlusion of the vagina and urethra means the normal flow of urine is deflected and the perineum remains constantly wet and susceptible to bacterial growth. Retrograde UTI’s therefore commonly occur, affecting the bladder, uterus and kidneys. Damage to the lower urinary tract during the procedure can also result in urinary tract infections.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a common complication of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is accompanied by abdominal pain and infertility and the etiologic agents were Neisseria gonnorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis. FGM plays a significant impact in the progression of PID for the woman who has been infibulated there are added risks of infection band resulting infertility.
FGM Increases Susceptibility to HIV/AIDS. It has been said that this practice play a critical role in facilitating HIV infection through various mechanisms as it predisposes women to HIV infection in the following ways: increased need for blood transfusion due to haemorrhage either when the procedures is performed at childbirth or result of vaginal tearing during defibulation and intercourse and the use of the same blade on another person. This is because, the operation is mainly carried out by practitioners of traditional medicine and by traditional birth attendants using unsanitary knives and other unsterilized instruments in generally unhygienic conditions.
FGM does irrepairable harm to the female reproductive organ and health as a whole which can result to death through severe bleeding, pain and trauma as well as overwhelming infections. It has dangerous health implications because of the unsanitary conditions in which it is generally practiced.
The efforts made by the harmonised support of the Nigerian government, the WHO and partners to put a stop to the medicalisation of the female genital mutilation between 2013-2017; which was revised in the implementation of the policy over the past six years which includes the enactment of legislation outlawing female genital mutilation. However, implementation of this legislative framework remains low across the states in Nigeria owing to certain constraints
(i) Development of alternative sources of income for circumcisers is another way of eliminating this practice.
(ii) Strong advocacy campaign against the practice all over the nation should be prioritized.
(iii) The process of social change in the community with a collective and coordinated agreement to abandon the practice is very essential in eliminating this practice.
(iv)This also calls for a multidisciplinary approach involving legislation, health care professional organizations, empowerment of the women in the society, and education of the general public at all levels
with emphasis on dangers and irrelevance of FGM in the society.
In summation, this practice has no health benefits but only harm to women and girls, traditions, cultural beliefs and practice like female genital mutilation are harmful to female, It is gender based violence, it is violation of girls and women right rights, it steals girls future, it can be traumatizing , and it may lead to death, therefore it should be completely abolished.
Grace O A
Women & Child Safety Programme