FGM - Female Genital Mutilation
A serious worldwide problem that many in western countries aren’t aware of is female genital mutilation (FGM).
FGM has been embedded deeply in some Arab and African cultural traditions and has symbolic meaning for many communities. The disturbing practice of FGM is based on social, religious and psychosexual beliefs which mainly include the maintenance of chastity to maintain family honor by having control over a woman’s sexuality.
Community leaders who promote FGM say that it is necessary for hygiene to prevent bad odor and that it’s a religious requirement for women to be spiritually clean. Female Genital Mutilation is being supported and sustained as a community enforcement mechanism in ways such as public recognition, through songs and poems celebrating this type of circumcision while ridiculing the uncircumcised.
Although no recorded religious text requires that a woman undergo FGM many men refuse to marry an uncircumcised woman because they fear God’s punishment. The custom is found in many religions but has gotten the most attention from its practice within Islam. It’s believed by many Muslims in North African countries such as Egypt that all women should be circumcised just like men, because it makes the woman smart and calm.
It is viewed internationally as a health and human rights issue, but because the FGM is deeply rooted into cultural traditions it is difficult to address. The World Health Organization (WHO) insists that there aren’t any hygiene or health reasons to support FGM and insist that it’s a form of discrimination against women and an act of violence.
It has been estimated that 8,000 or more girls per day are being forced to undergo FGM according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with a total yearly estimate of 3 million or more females being subjected to the procedure. Although the practice has been mostly confined to the Arabian Peninsula and African countries it is now becoming a global concern, mostly due to migration of people around the world and through displacement from civil wars.
A growing number of women who have undergone FGM are now living in Europe and other western countries, and young girls are at risk as their families attempt to maintain this cultural practice even if laws prohibit it. The WHO has developed effective cultural programs at the community level to educate and protect females from the harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation hoping to stop the practice.