Female Genital Mutilation in Africa

FGM is usually motivated by cultural or religious belief systems, and is more common in some regions of Africa.

However, the prevalence of FGM extends to some Middle Eastern, Asian, Australian, Central American, and South American countries, but to a lesser degree. There are four types of FGM: partial or complete removal of the clitoris; complete removal of the clitoris and partial or complete removal of the labia minora; complete removal of the clitoris and labia minora, and the labia majora is sew together leaving a small opening for urine and menstrual blood to pass through; or any other acts that disfigure the external genitalia without removal of tissue.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 90 million females in Africa had FGM, and another 3 million will undergo the procedure each year. FGM is typically performed on girls around the age of puberty, but the procedure has been performed on infants and older girls and women. The practice of FGM is perceived to enforce chastity of women by decreasing libido, and increasing pain during sexual intercourse. Furthermore, the act of FGM is often considered necessary so girls and women are viewed as feminine and clean by their society, and may be a requirement for marriage.

Aside from FGM being considered medically unnecessary, most procedures are done in unsterile environments without anesthesia. Since many procedures are done without proper sterilization techniques, there is a significantly increased risk of blood borne infections, including HIV. Severe pain and bleeding, and a high likelihood of infection are immediate risks of FGM. In the long-term, recurrent infections are likely to occur because of the impaired ability to release urine and menstrual blood. Recurrent infections and injury are also likely because of the pattern of ripping or cutting of the labia majora for sexual intercourse or child birth, and the subsequent act of suturing the labia majora back together. More extensive cases of FGM can increase complications during child birth. Some women have extensive episiotomies during child birth to preserve the original FGM procedure.


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