Posts

Female Genital Mutilation in the Middle EastFemale genital mutilation, or FGM, is a practice that is most common in cultures with strict patriarchial structures. Many people believe that the ritual is only performed in Africa, but in actuality, thousands of girls undergo female genital mutilation in the Middle East every year. Though many claim the procedure is done for religious reasons, researchers have found that it predates Christianity and Islam. In fact, female Egyptian mummies have been found with FGM. This is a deep-rooted and harmful practice that still continues today. The United Nations formally recognizes FGM as a form of torture that oppresses women.

Female Genital Mutilation in the Middle East

  1. Where does FGM occur? FGM was previously believed to only occur in Africa, however, recent advocacy efforts revealed that the practice extends to many other countries, especially in the Middle East. In the Middle East, FGM is mostly concentrated in Southern Jordan, Iraq and Northern Saudi Arabia. There have also been cases of FGM in Qatar, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The practice most often occurs in small ethnic enclaves where the ritual is considered tradition. It is important to recognize that FGM occurs in many places outside of Africa in order to stop the practice completely.
  2. Who is most impacted by FGM? In Egypt, about 87% of girls are affected by FGM. According to a UNICEF study from 2013, many of them are traumatized by the experience before the age of 14. In many other Middle Eastern and African countries, the majority of girls are cut before the age of 15. Current rates are certainly improving, but it is likely that one in three girls in Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and Djibouti will experience FGM by 2030. In the United Arab Emirates, 34% of the women surveyed said they had experienced FGM. Twenty percent of women surveyed in Saudi Arabia are subject to the practice.
  3. What are the impacts of FGM? This practice has severe short-term and long-term negative impacts on women who undergo the procedure. Young girls are held and tied down while a local village cutter, usually not a licensed medical professional, performs the procedure with little or no anesthetic. In short, FGM can cause death, infections, hemorrhage and severe pain. In Egypt, there was a public outcry after a doctor performed FGM on a 12-year-old girl who then bled to death. The doctor was arrested, but the practice is extremely traumatizing and can cause severe psychological damage in the long run. It can lead to chronic infections and trouble with childbirth. Girls who undergo FGM are also more likely to drop out of school and become child brides.
  4. Steps are being made to reduce FGM. As information becomes more readily available, more and more people are speaking out against the procedure. It is finally being recognized as a violation of human rights. Though FGM is most common in Egypt, the country has made the most progress in the past 30 years, according to UNICEF. FGM is completely banned in Egypt and doctors can go to jail if they perform it. It has also been banned in Sudan. In Yemen, FGM can no longer be performed in medical facilities, but it has not been banned at home.
  5. FGM rates are decreasing. As can be inferred, many women are now against the practice of FGM. However, some more traditional cultures still advocate for the circumcision of women. In Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq and Djibouti, 70% of all women were affected by FGM 30 years ago. Today, half of all girls in those five countries undergo FGM. Although FGM is still allowed in Iraq, it is illegal in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many people against the practice explain that law is not enough and there needs to be stricter enforcement to ensure the end of female circumcision.
  6. A call to action: According to UNICEF, there has been a massive movement to end FGM in the last 25 years. There are many organizations, like the Orchid Project, that campaign against the traditional cutting in the Middle East and Asia. In 2013, UNICEF formally recognized that FGM is a problem that extends to areas outside of Africa. In addition, the United Nations celebrates International End FGM day every February 6, which is a huge step forward in spreading awareness. The U.N. also made it a goal to stop FGM in all countries by 2030.
FGM is a way to oppress women and makes girls feel like their body is a sin. It is a horrible practice that leaves long-lasting wounds in our global society. Not only is it a form of torture, but it strips women from basic human rights. Thankfully, more people are becoming familiar with female genital mutilation in the Middle East and elsewhere. Allies around the world are working hard to bring an end to the practice.

Karin Filipova
Photo: Flickr

Child_Marriage_in_Mozambique
According to UNICEF data in 2014, child marriage in Mozambique is not uncommon: 48 percent of women in Mozambique aged 20 to 24 married before they were 18 years old; 14 percent of them were married by age 15.

Although the percentage of child brides in Mozambique has declined from 56.6 percent in 1997, Girls Not Brides reports that “population growth has meant that the actual number of married girls has increased.”

To address this issue, Mozambique has launched a new, multi-organization plan to end child marriage, led by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Affairs. According to Girls Not Brides, one of the most important pillars in this new plan is reforming the legal framework surrounding child marriage. Although child marriage is officially illegal, it is not punishable by law, making its illegal status more of a symbol than a tool and failing to hinder the practice.

The plan also involves increasing girls’ access to education and creating a social mobilization campaign, as well as increasing sexual and reproductive health services to young women already in marriages. This education is vital, as UNICEF reports that women married young are likely to become pregnant shortly after, and that these young mothers have higher rates of maternal mortality; their children are also more likely to be underweight, underdeveloped and more likely to die young.

One of the biggest issues Mozambique still has to overcome is ending poverty. Often times, young girls are married off for economic reasons—their parents get money from the husband’s family, known as the “bride price,” and the poor families of these girls now have one less mouth to feed. According to Girls Not Brides, Mozambique requires continued outside support; though there are renewed efforts to end child marriage in Mozambique, it will be an uphill battle.

Emily Milakovic

Photo: U.N. Multimedia

Pathfinder International

Aisha gave birth to her 9th child at home in Nigeria in 2009. Hemorrhaging and in shock, she was immediately rushed to the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital in Kano, northern Nigeria. Upon arrival her blood pressure was very low and she had lost a lot of blood, a leading cause of maternal death in developing countries. Doctors immediately wrapped Aisha in an anti-shock garment that encourages blood flow to all parts of the body. In places like Nigeria, it can take several hours for a patient to receive the blood they need. In Aisha’s case, it took 4 and a half hours. Without this garment, Aisha would likely have died, waiting for blood.

Aisha’s story is all too familiar for millions of women around the world. Access to pre and postnatal healthcare as well as general sexual health resources, in developing nations is limited, if available at all, and women often die during childbirth. Pathfinder International, however, is an organization dedicated to bringing vital, life saving sexual and reproductive health care education and practices to the people that need it most.

222 million women today lack access to contraceptives. They have limited ability to choose when, if, and how often to have children. When women are educated and empowered with the ability to make these decisions, they are happier and healthier. Their children are more likely to stay in school longer and in turn lead longer, more productive lives.

Pathfinder International, founded in 1957, is active in more than 20 countries today in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. They have five key areas of focus in addition to maternal and newborn health. These include education and services for adolescents, HIV, contraception and family planning, abortion, and advocacy. Multi-level collaboration and data are key components of the work they do. They partner closely with NGOs, community and faith-based organizations, local governments, and individuals and emphasize collecting reliable, consistent data to improve programs and provide accountability to donors.

For more information about Pathfinder International and to find out how you can help, visit their website.

– Erin N. Ponsonby

Sources: Pathfinder International
Photo: Hope Ofiriha