Female genital mutilation(FGM) is also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision. Removal of some or all of the external female genitalia is an unnecessary violation practiced in 27 African countries.
A 2008 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that 32 per cent of women who underwent the procedure did so to correct a functional impairment; 31 per cent to correct a functional impairment and for aesthetic reasons; and 37 per cent for aesthetic reasons alone. According to a 2011 review published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, overall patient satisfaction is in the 90–95 percent range.
Typically carried out by a traditional circumcision using a blade, FGM is conducted from days after birth to puberty and beyond. In half the countries for which national figures are available, most girls are cut before the age of five. ] Procedures differ according to the country or ethnic group. They include removal of the clitoral hood and clitoral glans; removal of the inner labia; and removal of the inner and outer labia and closure of the vulva. In this last procedure (known as infibulation), a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid; the vagina is opened for intercourse and opened further for childbirth.
The practice is rooted in gender inequality, attempts to control women’s sexuality, and ideas about purity, modesty and beauty. It is usually initiated and carried out by women, who see it as a source of honour, and who fear that failing to have their daughters and granddaughters cut will expose the girls to social exclusion. The health effects depend on the procedure; they can include recurrent infections, difficulty urinating and passing menstrual flow, chronic pain, the development of cysts, an inability to get pregnant, complications during childbirth, and fatal bleeding. There are no known health benefits.
There have been international efforts since the 1970s to persuade practitioners to abandon FGM. As a result it has been outlawed or restricted in most of the countries in which it occurs, although the laws are poorly enforced. The opposition to the practice is not without its critics, particularly among anthropologists, who have raised difficult questions about cultural relativism and the universality of human rights.
A Somolian FGM patient of Dr. Reed, who underwent clitoral hood reconstruction