What is FGM?
What exactly is FGM? FGM also known as Female Genital Mutilation is the non-medical practice that removes female genital organs. Often girls are cut when they are still very young and in most cases under the age of 5. FGM is practiced all over the world but it’s predominant in thirty (30) countries (i.e., Somalia 98%, Guinea 97%, Djibouti 93%, Sierra Leone 90%, Mali 89% etc.). In some of those countries high prevalence rate means all girls still experience FGM. There are four types of FGM. These include.
- Type 1: Clitoridectomy which means removal of the clitoris.
- Type 2: Excision which also means the removal of the clitoris and the labial.
- Type 3: Infibulation, meaning a narrowing of the genitalia opening through stitching.
- Type 4: All other harmful procedures not covered by the first three including pricking, stretching, scrapping, or the use of acid to mutilate parts of the genitalia.
FGM is not medical and has zero health benefits and yet can lead to a lot of other things which includes severe bleeding, complications in childbirth, problems urinating, problems menstruating, problems having sex, mental health issues, shock, and possibly death. More than 200 million women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) with 3 million more at risk every single year. FGM is violence against women and girls, child abuse, sexual assault and often is about controlling female sexuality and a tradition to prepare women for marriage which allegedly purify them for their husbands to marry.
FGM as a rite of passage
Sometimes it is done to girls because it was done to their mothers as a rite of passage or coming of age ritual even without much of an explanation at all. It is a cycle of social pressure that is hard to shake but not possible. There are many people in the world who seek for the practice to be halted forever. Though it is often shrouded in secrecy, many survivors have come out to share their experiences having gone through such trauma so they can help end it all together. It should be noted that FGM is not a religious exercise although it happens in Christian, Muslim and Jewish societies but there is nothing in their holy books that teaches or enforces them to engage in such practice.
In Singapore and most Asian countries, Female circumcision has been around for centuries irrespective of the technological advancement made under the high towering skyscrapers that exist. For this region to move beyond and achieve everything they have hoped for, it is imperative to empower and outcast the draconian laws and outdated customs that succumb women and young girls to this act. Still in the 21st century, FGM is practiced openly in Singapore branded in the name “Khatan” for girls.
Khatan is the Arabic word which describes the circumcision or cutting the excess skin on the confined part of both men and women. In Singapore the term is known as “Sunat Perempuan” which translates to female circumcision. This practice is common in the Islamic tribes in Singapore. Just as in many places, the community sees it as a way to control female sexuality and a rite of passage for girls while others believe it is a religious requirement in Islam. The practice is kept so quiet in this region that most people don’t realize they were cut when they are much older.
How do we end FGM?
Basically, FGM is violence against girls. The question then remains, how can we help to end FGM?
- Education: teaching doctors and teachers what signs to look for and how to respond sensitively.
- Cultural intervention: survivors telling their own stories to their own communities.
- Laws and Policies: enforcing consequences when FGM is carried out and making policies changes that further deters the practice. The time to end FGM is now.