female genital cutting
The preacher has performed many cuttings like this before. He holds up some broken glass to the light – he will use this to cut out the clitoris of the young girl. No anesthetic will be used. The pain she endures is thought to be a sign of her strength.

The young girl screams out against this horrific abuse to her body.

Over 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of Female Genital Cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is most common, according to research from UNICEF.

The charity also estimates that 250 million women and girls alive today have been married since their 15th birthday.

In an attempt to highlight the issues of Female Genital Cutting and child, early and forced marriage, the UK government hosted the first international Girl Summit in London on July 22, co-hosted by UNICEF. Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai attended as well as women from across the world who have been affected by FGC.

The issue of FGC has been a growing concern in Britain where estimates from the Commons Home Affairs Committee reveal that 170,000 women and girls were living with FGC in the UK.

At the summit UK Prime Minister David Cameron revealed a £1.4 million prevention program aimed at ending the practice of FGC. New laws are set to come into effect, making it a crime for parents not to protect their children from female genital mutilation. Although illegal in the UK since 1985, no one has ever been convicted for FGC crimes.

The summit also revealed an “international charter” calling for the eradication of FGC and forced marriage within a generation.

Female Genital Cutting has no health benefits, is extremely painful and often leads to infections and in some cases death.

In its most severe form, the sensitive clitoris is completely or partly removed with crude and accessible implements in order to dull the sexual appetite of the girl. The genitals are then cut and stitched closed making sex impossible. Sometimes corrosive substances are poured in to scar and shrink the genitals.

Only a tiny piece of wood creates an opening so that urine and monthly blood can flow.

When the young girls are able to bear children they are un-stitched – and once the child has been born, stitched back up again.

The Girl Summit aims to raise the profile of this horrific practice which the Prime Minister has called a “preventable evil.”

He hopes that FGC can be ended in a generation. While so many of these types of summit fall short of meeting their goals, the issue of female genital mutilation and child marriage is finally being taken seriously by the international community. The new laws being introduced to the UK and the international charter raise the profile of this crime and may begin the process of eradicating this practice.

Female Genital Cutting Key Facts

· FGC Includes “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
· The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
· Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of new-born deaths.
· More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGC is concentrated.
· FGC is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
· FGC is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
· In December 2012, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution calling for all member states to ban the practice.

– Charles Bell

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, UK Government, WHO
Photo: FBNewswire

female genital cutting
As women’s rights are becoming a prominent focus of governments worldwide, traditions and culture may be holding back complete equality in some aspects. Female Genital Cutting is a long-standing tradition in some regions of the world, despite its negative effects on its victims.

FGC is the practice of removing the clitoris and labia for non-medical reasons in girls and young women from birth up until age 15. In some cases, the vagina is also completely closed. Many times, people who have had no medical training at all perform the operation because they must do it in secret in order to avoid the government and laws against the practice.

This custom affects 125 million people worldwide and its effects are becoming increasingly dangerous. It often leads to serious infections or fatal hemorrhaging. After having the procedure, a woman is twice as likely to die while giving birth and it increases the chances of a baby being stillborn.

Only recently has this abusive practice become a priority for governments around the world. It has been recognized as a violation of women’s rights, and therefore means are being pursued to stop the practice.

Plan UK’s Because I Am A Girl campaign is at the forefront of the fight against FGC. Chief Executive Tanya Barron expresses the organization’s concerns about making this a global issue: “we believe we have to foster a general attitude of ending violence against women and girls.”

Events like the Girl Summit in July will promote putting an end to FGC. This event is an Africa-led movement that will “bring together community leaders, faith groups, the public sector and the private sector” to create change in the countries where FGC is most prevalent.

Accomplishing this task will not be easy, as many cultures are very strict about keeping traditions. However, more and more people are recognizing the cruelty of FGC and its lasting effects on girls who are unable to defend themselves. These organizations believe that this is the beginning of the end of FGC.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: The Guardian, AllAfrica
Photo: Women’sThoughts