First of all, I would tell you that I’m still shocked that this archaic but dangerous practice is still carried out in places around the world, mostly Africa. I would be a liar though if I say that I am not happy with the way that the rate of the practice has reduced, but I want it to end completely. I am not the only one who wants this – billions around the world hate this senseless practice and want it to stop and I believe you are one of them. Literally, there is no sense to this.
It is like lobotomizing the brain because you want to remove the part of it that is linked to emotions in view that this will make work or life easier. In truth, you’re actually making it worse. With no emotion comes no essence to life. In today’s article, I will try to touch every part of this barbaric practice so you too reading can help advocate for this to be stopped and if you are a parent, you should know not to try it at all with your female child(ren).
Female genital mutilation is a process that involves partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or injury to the female genital organ for cultural or any other non-therapeutic use. This is an unhealthy cultural belief that is mostly practised or done by traditional circumcisers.
TYPES OF F.G.M.
- TYPE 1: This involves the removal of the prepuce (the clitoral hood) with or without extension to the part of the clitoris.
- TYPE 2: This involves the removal of the prepuce, clitoris with the part, or total removal of the labia minora.
- TYPE 3: This involves the removal of the prepuce, clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora. Sometimes, stitching of the vagina orifice.
- TYPE 4: This involves piercing and ripening of the clitoris, labia minora and majora, and scraping off the vagina orifice. Some people also pour corrosive substances into the vagina to narrow the opening.
Although sensitization and health education are being carried out in most communities about the implications, some people still practice it secretly.
I remember going for community diagnosis in a community here in Nigeria, and while discussing with some of the elders, I found out that one of the reasons they carried out F.G.M was to control female sexual urge. They said it was wrong and unfeminine for a woman to have high sex drives, so they thought they could control it by the means of female genital mutilation.
I can tell you from my experience that it’s not entirely true. Instead, some girls who were circumcised find it difficult to attain orgasm or be sexually satisfied because the most pleasurable part of their organ has already been tampered with. Some also experience painful sexual intercourse and childbirth!
Apart from these implications, there are other health risks associated with female genital mutilation.
Female genital mutilation does not in any way give health benefits to the girl child but it causes damages to the healthy tissues in the female genitalia.
- Severe pain: If you were to witness the practice of F.G.M or if you’ve had an opportune time to see this, you would know that the pain of severing this vital piece of the female child is in another level of pain. Most of these communities if not all don’t use anaesthetics so the child feels the pain in its raw form; an unspeakable amount. The child looking around sees her mother or guardian urging her on to take this “hallowed” step into womanhood, and a mental scar is created; the pain welling deep into her. I would then understand the livery and rage and mostly jealousy older women who have undergone this and still support it, feel. But the joy in seeing a younger generation suffer for what they didn’t create shouldn’t mask the pain they feel. They feel a whole lot.
- Shock due to pain, haemorrhage or infection: imagine getting your leg amputated while awake and with no anaesthetics. You’re not under. You’re awake and you can see the blade coming down on your leg. Disturbing, right? Now, imagine the mental torture of seeing part of you being removed and blood flowing freely. The shock factor sets in emotionally. You’re shocked both emotionally and medically.
Hear Rita, 28* gives her story below:
I was born in the U.S. and was living here, so I was sent to Guinea for summer vacation. I didn’t know it was going to happen, and I was never warned. It felt like the biggest betrayal and deceit. But I remember the physical pain better.
I went to Africa to learn about my identity just to end up being scarred for life. I didn’t realize FGM was a part of my identity, and to this day that’s what hurts the most.
I was mutilated along with my baby sister. She was 9, and I was 11. After the circumcision, I don’t know what happened exactly, but she died. What I remember is she was blamed for not taking their herbs and everything they were doing to help her, which never included taking her to a doctor. She was blamed for not surviving, and I was praised for taking it well. She was my best friend. We shared a room. We used to play with our dolls and have tea parties together. She was gone, and they blamed her for it. When we came back, no one asked about what happened to her. No one asked why she was just no longer there. I was told to forget it, like it never happened.
After the ritual, I was placed in a room with other girls, and men were not allowed to see us. I remember not seeing my family for days — I can’t remember exactly how long. When I finally returned to the U.S. and saw my family, they were happy and proud. I was finally a woman. Pure.
Sex is painful, and I hate, hate, hate it. I hate being touched. It feels like rape every time. I cry inside, I cry out loud, and my husband does not care. It does not hurt him. I had Type-3 FGM, and I was reopened after we were married.
My husband will kill me if he ever finds out that I spoke out against FGM and my parents will back him up. But I know that my story needs to be heard. When someone speaks out about FGM, the whole community turns against them. Plus, we have no protection. No one understands what I go through or what it means.
My hope is for survivors of FGM to have a safe place to go to without being judged. I also want a reconstructive surgery not just for me but for everyone like me. To the doctors reading this, please consider offering free surgeries for women like me. It would change our lives. And I hope the government takes action and raises awareness like they should. I don’t think I can talk about this again, but I hope others speak up.
*Name of survivor has been changed to protect identity.
Other effects include:
- Infections caused by the use of contaminated instruments.
- Urinary problems caused by pain, swelling or injury to the urethra.
- Childbirth complications.
- Mental health problems.
- Excessive hemorrhage (bleeding)
- Genital tissue swelling: due to localized infection or inflammation.
- Vaginal problems; discharge, itching and other infections.
- Menstrual problems: in TYPE 3 which involves stitching of the vagina orifice, this can lead to painful menstruation, irregular menstruation and difficulty in passing menstrual blood.
- It is also a predisposing factor to HIV.
Some other people believe that with another traditional method, the length of the clitoris can be reduced and stopped from protruding too much. It is also believed that this method is a better alternative to complete or partial clitoridectomy. They do this especially to infant females. This method involves pressing the clitoris with a clean cloth dipped in hot water. I still see no sense in this. Why remove that part of a woman which is supposed to give her complete control of her orgasms?
It is important to note that Female Genital Mutilation is illegal in Nigeria and this was made possible by the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari since 2016. However in some states in Nigeria, this practice still goes on. Non-Governmental Organizations like Kick Against Genital Multiple (KAGM) have also been on the front-line, fighting for this practice to end in Nigeria.
Dear reader, I would love your comments on this practice. Should this be continued? Discontinued? Why? Use the comment box down below to air your views!
Remember to relate with your doctor or health care provider if you notice any changes in your body system.
Chioma Nnam(Omatonia) is a writer and Community Health Extension Worker who between other things likes to educate you and me on how to have a healthy lifestyle.