The images of a woman being held down as her clitoris is mutilated are gory and almost impossible to imagine. In many countries of the world female genitalia is cut, a practice is known as female genital mutilation (FGM) for reducing pleasure for a woman during sex. In some cases, the reason is religion and some cases just culture.
FGM reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practise also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
Why does it happen?
The practice is based upon a traditional belief that FGM is needed to control a girl's sexuality and ensure her virginity until marriage, or to prepare her for marriage. A girl who remains uncut will often be considered unsuitable for marriage. There are also often misconceptions that an uncut girl will be promiscuous, unclean, bad luck, or less fertile.
No health benefits
FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue and interferes with the natural functions of girls' and women's bodies. There are various health complications after a girl undergoes FGM. Girls can suffer from abscesses, cysts and ulcers due to the procedure. In a few cases, girls die as a direct result of cutting. Complications can include haemorrhage, contracting septicaemia, tetanus or even HIV due to unsterilised tools. Girls can further experience difficulty in passing urine and issues with menstruation because her urethra or vaginal opening may get blocked due to the procedure. Mutilation can lead to sex as a painful and traumatic experience for girls/women.
More than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice.
The path ahead
There has been significant progress made in eliminating the harmful practice, but more is needed, and fast if we are to end it once and for all.
Women's bodies have often been the target of shaming. Female genital mutilation as a practice is an extreme form of discrimination against the woman in a man's world. Where a man will have the right to experience pleasure but a woman must just produce.