Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. A harmful practice with no health benefits, FGM can cause long-lasting physical, emotional and psychological trauma; and in some cases, death.
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.
In Kenya, around 4 million women (or one in every five women) have been subjected to FGM. Of this, 11% are young girls between 14 and 19 years. While Kenya has made tremendous steps in ending FGM, the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) released on January 17, 2023, shows that the prevalence of FGM has declined by 6% in the last 8 years – proof that as a country we failed to achieve our target of zero FGM by end of 2022.
This means the fire of this fight needs to be stoked. 200million women and girls worldwide have undergone FGM. Many cultures have different reasons for continuing FGM. From upholding the status of the community to maintaining her virginity, marriageability and bride price. From enhancing her beauty to increasing her husband’s sexual pleasure. These cultural, economic and religious justifications assume FGM benefits the girl as she transitions to womanhood.
Furthermore, FGM is not only a Kenya’s problem. Neither is it an African’s problem. It is a global issue. Changing such a social norm that has been passed from one generation to another – and even defines people – is not easy. Thus, the need for extensive mass education in communities that practice it. This year, 4.3 million girls are at risk of female genital mutilation, according to the latest UNFPA estimates.
This number is projected to reach 4.6 million by 2030, as conflict, climate change, rising poverty and inequality continue to hinder efforts to transform gender and social norms that underpin this harmful practice and disrupt programmes that help protect girls. Its indeed sad that those who we trusted the most, our parents are the main individuals involved in making such demoralizing acts a success. Unlike circumcision prevents nothing in the female body but in turn results to risk of newborn deaths, cysts, infections and complications at child birth.
FGM is clear proof of the inequity between sexes that’s deeply rooted from back then, and this constitutes an extreme form of discrimination between girls and women.
This is an inhuman practice, that leads to low self -esteem, damaged health, lifetime traumas and insecurities, surgeries, vaginal, urinary scar tissues and menstrual problems), is performed to a young adolescent girl, who is innocent and unheard.
Over the years WHO as tried fighting against FGM in my country, to be specific Kenya, but is the government really doing enough to ensure that this Practice comes to an end. A video as been making rounds on all social media platforms on how a girl was brutally harassed by her elder brother together with his friends, after failing to undergo FGM and they forcefully performed the act on her, against her will, the culprits were later arrested after an uproar on the internet.
Has it come to this, a girl child’s stand cannot be heard not unless there’s recorded evidence that as gone viral and has the citizens protesting for arrest of the culprits involved.
Our women are hurting and damaged, our women are dying, some old uncivilized traditions being forcefully imposed on them isn’t the way to go, this is complete violation of the human rights of girls and women. Everyone as a right and should be able to exercise their freedom in decision making, this include our women and teenagers who happen to be part of the tribes involved in this heinous act, it is up to us to at least be the little change in the world in fighting FGM and publicly being anti-FGM.
A listening and acting government would be a great start in this battle. Having those involved in such practices arrested, having teachers have their students learn of the dangers involved in FGM and still being able to empower a woman, positively, who as been through this, it all begins with us and this involves the little things that matter…..like reporting such a matter to the nearest police station in case you hear of one, setting camps on areas that have FGM high tolls and educating the community concerning its side effects, creating a safe haven for children who might have ran away from home in fear of such being done to them, and counselling those who might have been traumatized by this act happening to them, we also can push hashtags on being anti-FGM since the Internet is accessed by quite a number of people worldwide.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) violates the rights of women and girls and limits their opportunities for the future in health, education and income. Rooted in gender inequality and power imbalances, it is an act of gender-based violence that harms girls’ bodies, dims their futures, and endangers their lives. But we know that change is possible. With just seven years left to reach the global target of eliminating FGM, only collective and well-funded action across a diverse group of stakeholders can end this harmful practice.
Changing gender and social norms that encourage FGM is critical. Men and boys are powerful allies in the effort. Increasingly they are challenging power dynamics within their families and communities and supporting women and girls as agents of change. Available data from large-scale representative surveys show that FGM has been practised in countries across the world.
Myths and facts about FGM
Myth 1: An uncut woman will become promiscuous (‘sleep around’) and have an uncontrollable sexual appetite.
Fact 1: FGM makes no difference to a woman’s sexual appetite but can stop her from enjoying sex. Sexual desire mainly arises from hormones secreted by glands in the brain. Women should be able to choose what level of sexual activity is right for them personally. Some women like to wait to have sex until they are married, some feel ready earlier. So long as sexual activity is safe and respectful, all that matters is that women do what they feel is right.
Myth 2: If the clitoris is not cut, it will harm the husband during intercourse.
Fact 2: The clitoris gives a woman sexual pleasure and does not cause any harm to her or her husband.
Myth 3: If a woman does not undergo FGM, her genitals will smell.
Fact 3: FGM will not make the vagina any more hygienic. In fact, Type 3 FGM can make the vagina less hygienic.
Imagine being born in a community that is marginalized, sparsely populated and has a wanting infrastructure. Your screams of pain can hardly be heard. Apart from how your family and community socialise you, you are unaware of anything else.
You are born into a sizable abstract entity which has its own distinct values, customs and beliefs, all of which you are not permitted to question—lest you are viewed as a rebel and harshly punished. For a girl who lives in a community where FGM is common, the context is familiar. Sadly, despite the progress against the practice, there are parents and communities with no regard for their girls and women and only see them worthy of marriage, which is often forced on them—a violation of their rights.
A game changer in the war against FGM has been enlisting men and boys as allies. They play a significant role in perpetuating the practice—through either perpetrating or supporting it through cultural and social norms. The call for male participation and involvement in the anti-FGM/C war has made it to this year’s global theme for this day:
“Partnership with men and boys to transform social and gender norms to end FGM”.
Engaging men and boys is good progress in establishing and strengthening solidarity in established systems to end FGM. While that is key to ending the practice, it is important to approach this engagement in a manner that does not reinforce toxic masculinity or perpetuate negative gender stereotypes. Instead, the focus should be on promoting equality and respect for the human rights of all.
Strategies to Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation
It was said that constant communication and collaboration between local government leaders and ethnic leaders, as well as recognition of ethnic leaders in the government structures, will be a key strategy toward eradicating FGM practice. From my findings also village leaders and government officials should continue to participate and get involved in different meetings and community social gatherings and be allowed to address matters about the community and be engaged in decision-making as the key to success in the fight against FGM.
Findings showed that there are existing local committees in some areas that are working on the FGM problem; hence there is a need to empower them and make sure they comprise potential people of different cadres in the community. The formation of child protection committees also as one of the possible measures to curb FGM as it included other carders in the communities and some areas, and there was a positive outcome.
Form local committees that would continuously sensitize the community, for areas that did not have existing committees. Providing education to girls and women and the community in general is another important factor in ending FGM. The intermarriage with tribes/races that do not practice FGM was found to be one of the factors that gradually promoted anti-FGM by encouraging young people to marry uncircumcised girls. Simply, it all begins with us, we are the change we need.