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PARLIAMENTARY CAMPAIGN "STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN": FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

    What is female genital mutilation?


Video: Men take action

How can the process of putting an end to female genital mutilation be accelerated? One way is by encouraging men to take action alongside women. In this video, men break the silence and challenge religious, cultural and traditional arguments used to justify a practice that they cannot accept.


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The following descriptions are taken from Fact Sheet N 23 of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, which also contains information on the operating conditions and accompanying rites and beliefs and on the impact on the health of girl children and women. The last description is taken from Fact Sheet N 241 of June 2000 of the World Health Organization, entitled "Female Genital Mutilation" which includes a detailed information pack focussing more especially on all health aspects, from consequences to prevention of FGM and the role of professional associations in health, and containing a list of contact groups and persons with their details.

  • Circumcision or "sunna": This involves the removal of the prepuce and the tip of the clitoris. This is the only operation which, medically, can be likened to male circumcision.

  • Excision or clitoridectomy: This involves the removal of the clitoris, and often also of the labia minora. It is the most common operation and is practised throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula.

  • Infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision: This is the most severe operation, involving excision plus the removal of the labia majora and the sealing of the two sides, through stitching or natural fusion of scar tissue. What is left is a very smooth surface, and a small opening to permit urination and the passing of menstrual blood. This artificial opening is sometimes no larger that the head of a match.

  • Introcision: This form of mutilation is practised specifically by the Pitta-Patta Aborigines from Australia: When a girl reaches puberty, the whole tribe - both sexes - assembles. The operator, an elderly man, enlarges the vaginal orifice by tearing it downward with three fingers bound with opposum string. In other districts, the perineum is split with a stone knife. This is usually followed by compulsory sexual intercourse with a number of young men. Introcision is also practised in Peru, in particular among the Conibos, a division of the Pano Indians in the North-East: as soon as a girl reaches maturity, she is intoxicated and subjected to mutilation in front of her community. The operation is performed by an elderly woman, using a bamboo knife. She cuts around the hymen from the vaginal entrance and severs the hymen from the labia, at the same time exposing the clitoris. Medicinal herbs are applied followed by the insertion into the vagina of a slightly moistened penis-shaped object made of clay.

  • Unclassified types of FGM: includes pricking, piercing or incision of clitoris and/or labia; stretching of clitoris and/or labia; cauterisation by burning of clitoris and surrounding tissues; scraping (angurya cuts) of the vaginal orifice or cutting (gishiri cuts) of the vagina; introduction of corrosive substances into the vagina to cause bleeding or herbs into the vagina with the aim of tightening or narrowing the vagina; any other procedures which fall under the definition of FGM given above.
According to the World Health Organization, the most common type of female genital mutilation is excision of the clitoris and the labia minora, accounting for up to 80% of all cases: the most extreme form is infibulation, which constitutes about 15% of all procedures. The WHO estimates that, around the world, between 100 and 132 million girls and women have been subjected to female genital mutilation. Each year, a further 2 million girls are estimated to be at risk. Most of them live in 28 African countries, a few in the Middle East and Asian countries, and increasingly in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.

A 1998 WHO Overview on Female Genital Mutilation provides details of their physical, psychological and sexual consequences for women and girls. Physical consequences include: death, haemorrhage, shock, injury to neighbouring organs, infection, severe pain, failure to heal, Abscess formation, dermoid, cyst, keloids, scar neuroma, painful sexual intercourse, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and other bloodborne diseases, pseudo-infibulation, reproductive tract infection, dysmenorrhea, urine retention, urinary tract infection, chronic urinary tract obstruction, urinary incontinence, stenosis of the artificial opening to the vagina, complications with regard to labour and delivery.

How can the process of putting an end to female genital mutilation be accelerated? One way is by encouraging men to take action alongside women. In this video, men break the silence and challenge religious, cultural and traditional arguments used to justify a practice that they cannot accept.

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