Save the Clit.


This week’s blog comes from Development Perspectives Project Worker Stephanie Kirwan. Stephanie is a Development Education practitioner and facilitator who has worked globally in countries such as Ireland, Tanzania, China and South Africa. Stephanie is a passionate advocate of equality and human rights. 

fgmFemale genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. (WHO, 2016)

FGM is a much talked about issue, particularly following International Day against FGM, which took place on February 6th.. It’s also a topic which I feel very strongly about following a circumcision ceremony that I attended in a Maasai community in Tanzania in 2013. For me; this ceremony was completely shocking and to an extent disgusted me – however to the community of Parayko this was very much a ‘celebration’. But I had to question – would the ten young girls undergoing the circumcision say that it was a day to be celebrated?

On returning from Tanzania, (The second phase of Development Perspectives ‘Insight’ programme) in 2013 I was filled with so much energy, enthusiasm and exciting stories to tell. I was very eager to continue with the next steps of the programme however this ceremony kept returning to my memory. How could something so tortuous be happening to so many girls around the world and I never knew it even existed? Maybe it was because I am a female, or maybe it is just because I am a human but I knew I needed to find out more. How many more girls will undergo this traumatic experience? 

Today there are more than 125 million girls and women alive have been subjected to FGM. These figures are for the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where FGM most commonly occurs. Figures show that 98% of Somalian women are forced to undergo this procedure. What is more troubling is that these procedures are mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and adolescence. Female Genital Mutilation is an extremely harmful practice that violates the human rights of girls and women. FGM complications faced by these young girls and women include; severe pain, infections, increased risk of childbirth complications, psychological problems and in some cases death. And this is to name but a few.

This brings the question of why does this occur? Why are young women and children subjected to this horrific experience when it serves no medical purpose? According to UNICEF, Female Genital Mutilation is a manifestation of gender inequality. It is deeply rooted in social, economic and political structures in the societies this most commonly takes place. In the areas which it is practiced it is supported by both men and women without question, predominately due to the fact that questioning the practice may result in facing condemnation, harassment and ostracism (UNICEF, 2005c). The general understanding in such societies is that girls who are cut are ‘clean’ and ready for marriage as it lowers sexual desire and therefore ensures marriage fidelity. It has become an important part of the cultural identity of girls and women which may impact a sense of pride and coming of age. In many communities FGM is associated with religious beliefs however it must be pointed out that no holy texts from any religion prescribes FGM.

Without the support of the wider community, families find it difficult to abandon this practise. Many people may ask “What can I do to help from Ireland, it’s so far away”. But to my surprise I found that it is not so far away. According to research undertaken by AkiDwA (African women living in Ireland) more than 2500 women and girls living in Ireland have undergone FGM. Female Genital Mutilation has been recognised as a global issue which needs to be addressed immediately. As Irish citizens I urge to share this story, tell friends and families, hold information sessions to tell the world this is happening and that we do not agree with it.

Stand together with the 125 million girls and women around the world and put a stop to FGM.

Further reading materials:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw52/statements_missions/Interagency_Statement_on_Eliminating_FGM.pdf

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