Female Genitals Mutilations

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“ If your daughter has not been excised…No man in the village will marry her. It is an obligation. We have done it, we do it, and we will continue to do it…She has no choice. I decide. Her viewpoint is not important.”

A father from the Ivory Coast said this phrase to the New York Times.

        That phrase is not uncommon among parents who exercise Female Genital Mutilation. This 42 words phrase clearly explained that even if FGM is an act of violence against women and girls and also violate human rights, it is still a cultural tradition, deeply rooted in religious. Hence, until today, not many choose to deviate from the norm because much social pressure will follow as consequence.

        Different people have different views about FGM. 


What is FGM?

        Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is also called Female Circumcision (FC).  FGM comprises of all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural, religious or other non- therapeutic reasons. 

        There are three broad types of FGM. The mildest form of FGM, clitoridectomy is the removal or amputation of all or part of the clitoris, while excision includes the removal of the entire clitoris and the cutting of labia minora. The most extreme form of FGM is infibulation, the removal of all external genitalia including the clitoris, labia minora and stitching together the labia majora. Infibulation leave just a small opening in the vagina of the female for the passage of menstrual fluid and urine. Besides, it requires binding together of the legs until the wounds heal. Lastly, there is also an unclassified form of FGM.

History of FGM.

        The history of FGM can be traced back as far as the second century BC. A geographer, Agatharchides of Cnidus had proven this by writing about female circumcision. He wrote that there is a racial group on the western coast of the red sea, which practiced FC. It is seem that FGM was originated from Egypt.

        Apart from this, there are also people who believe that FC was rooted in the Pharaonic belief in the bisexuality of the gods. It is believe that each person has both female and male soul. The masculine soul of the woman was located in the clitoris. Hence, for a female to be a true woman, the ‘male’ part has to be excised.

        The last source for the existence of FGM is that, prior to Islam, there was exportation of slaves in Egypt and Sudan. Reports from the 15th and 16th centuries had shown that female slaves who were “sewn up” to make them unable to give birth, could be sold at a higher price. However, after these areas converted to Islam, this practise ceased because Islam prohibits enslaving others of their own religion.

Health Consequences of FGM.

        The aggressive nature of FGM and the unsanitary conditions which FGM is usually performed, brings along a lot of serious consequences. Immediate complications include severe pain, hemorrhage, shock, death, transmission of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and many more.

On the other hand, long- term consequences include kidney stone, keloid scar formation, damage to the urethra, dyspareunia, scars, permanent pain, infertility and easier transmission of HIV during sexual intercourse. Pregnancy and childbirth is one of the most stunning impacts. 

There are also negative psychological consequences.

Why is FGM Practice?

        FGM is practiced for number of reasons. One of the most important reasons is that in most FGM society, it is belief that the procedure will reduce a woman’s desire for sex.

Besides, FGM is also practice for sociological reasons. It is believed that unless a female go through this procedure, she will not enter into womanhood.        

Next would be the hygiene and aesthetic reason. It is belief that the female genital are dirty and unsightly. Unless a female has undergone this procedure, she is known as unclean.

        There is also a belief that an unmutilated woman cannot conceive. Hence, FGM will enhance fertility and child survival.

        Some had use the excuse “Allah says so” to exercise FGM. Muslims use religious sayings to support their practise. However, it is clear that this is a mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement.        


Who is Affected by FGM?

        Majority of girls experience FGM between four to twelve years old. According to United Nation, it is estimated that 130 million females have been genitally mutilated, and about 2 million more girls are to be mutilated each year. 

        Since this practice is often associated with the religion of Islam, it is not surprising that the procedure is most often performed in Middle Eastern and North African countries. In fact, most FGM are performed in one of the 28 practicing countries in Africa. However, FGM is also practice in Asia and industrialized countries such as Australia, United States and United Kingdom, which accept genetically mutilated females immigrant.


FGM Should Be a Criminal Offence.

 There should have no doubt that FGM should be considered as a criminal offence since the passage of Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985. Later on, the United Kingdom had passed the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 to repeal and re-enact the provisions of the 1985 Act. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 prohibits its citizen to practise FGM at all means. If a UK resident undergoes or aids a female undergo FGM, he commits a criminal offence.

There are a lot of reasons why FGM should be considered as a criminal offence. Muslims used “Allah says so” as an excuse to practise FGM. However, it had been clear that FGM predates Islam. Sheikh Talib, Dean of the Faculty of Shariah of Al- Azhar said, “All practises of female circumcision and mutilation are crimes and have no relationship with Islam.” Thus, even if religion did not approve such a practise, there is no reason why in the eye of law, FGM should be seen as acceptable.

Next, FGM causes harm. FGM is seen as an aggression against women and should be stop at once. FGM has both immediate and long-term harmful effects and has no health advantages. If a practise only causes harm, there is not even a single reason it should continue. The only way to stop people from suffering FGM is to inflict sanctions on it.

United Kingdom had joined the European Convention on Human Rights and the result is Human Rights Act 1998. FGM violates a number of human rights of women and girls. Since UK had joined the Convention on Human Rights, then it should abide by it. This means that when a practice goes against Human Rights, it should be consider as unlawful. Since FGM had violated Human Rights, it should be consider as a criminal offence.

Another important reason for FGM to be a criminal offence is that countries that are practising FGM are all trying to ban it. Egypt, Netherlands and Uganda are all putting in effort to end this practise. In Egypt, Sheikh Youssif al- Badri claims that FGM violates the Egyptian Constitution as well as Islamic principles and the Health Ministry in Egypt had banned doctors, nurses and midwives from carrying out FGM. In Netherlands, the Imams had signed a declaration against the practise. Lastly, in Uganda, local authorities are seeking ways to end FGM in order to restore the dignity of girls. This proves that even countries that are practising FGM are showing incredible effort to ban it. Thus, UK as a country that does not practise FGM should be aware of the hardship FGM might bring and prevent it by considering it as a criminal offence.

FGM Should Not Be a Criminal Offence.

There are reasons why FGM should not be considered as a criminal offence. Namely, FGM can improve cleanliness; prevention of vaginal cancer; removal of a poisonous organ; removal of bad genital odours; increased beauty; enhances sexuality and prevention of rape.

Religion vs. Tradition/ Religious values Behind FGM.

FGM had been originated from Egypt. It is true that once Egypt converted to Islam, FGM should demise. This is because FGM is not a religious practise require by the Islamic faith. In Islam, it is a sin to inflict harm to others and FGM is doing exactly that. The two main sources of Muslim Law, the Koran and Sunnah, did not mention the practise. It is not easy to understand why FGM did not fade out and the best explanation is that FGM is considered as a tradition. FGM had become a “law by custom.”

There are reports that had shown that even if FGM were a criminal offence, societies that practise the procedure would still continue with it and ignore the law. For example, Zuleka Ahmed of Somali Region Woman’s Affairs Office said, “Female genital mutilation and cutting is against the law. However, here tradition is stronger than the law.” Trying to outlaw the practise only amount to provoking resistance and protest in Africa. All these proved that law does little or nothing to stop those who practise FGM and the procedure continues because it is their culture, their tradition. For them who practise FGM, breaking the tradition is far more severe than going against the law. There is of course reasons why these people rather bind by custom than to follow law and these are the reasons why FGM should not be considered as a criminal offence.

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        Firstly, since it is a tradition, it is needed to preserve group identity. Where a group had always been recognised by a certain practise or custom, it is important that the practise continues in order to define who they are.

        Besides, FGM is important for a female to be eligible to get marry in a FGM society. Women who have not been excised have little chance to get married and marriage is essential to the social and economic security of a woman in those places.

Lastly, FGM societies feel that unless a girl had gone through this procedure, she will not ...

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