Presumably, there are religious and cultural factors for performingFemale Genital Mutilation. Before analysing those factors that might lead to such,a brief definition and key information is necessary.
According to the World Health Organization, often abbreviated to WHO, FemaleGenital Mutilation,”compromises all procedures that involvepartial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury tothe female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” (World Health Organization,2017, n.p.).
From a medical point of view circumcision is the “1. Operation to remove part or all of the prepuce. (…)”(Stedman, 2008, p.
315).Modern literature does not prefer to make use ofthe term Female Circumcision as it used to be. In the broadest sense, male and femalecircumcision are both “cutting rituals” (Toubia & Izett, 1998, p. 3) withoutany health benefits. However, female circumcision implies an equivalence tomale circumcision. When comparing both procedures, the procedure of malecircumcision contains removing the prepuce, whereas the procedure of femalecircumcision contains amputating the vulva or parts of it. The physical damageis irreversible due to invasiveness.
Excisors, perform the cutting ritual between the ages of four andfourteen on female evolving from child to adult as a rite of passage (Toubia& Izett, 1998). Geographically speaking, Africa has the highest prevalenceof modifying the vulva invasively. In 1989 the term Female Genital Mutilation,often abbreviated to FGM, was supported and declared by the Inter-AfricanCommittee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children(Toubia & Izett, 1998). The change of the terminology has then been adaptedfrom any organisation that engages in human rights work ever since.According to United Nations InternationalChildren’s Emergency Fund, often abbreviated to UNICEF, the exact number of girlsand young female adults who have undergone FGM still remain unknown to thisdate. Many cases of FGM remain unreported. In spite of dark figures, UNICEF illustrateswith its statistical overview published in 2013, that at least 200 milliongirls and women who are alive right now have undergone FGM globally (UNICEF,2013).
At the 6oth plenary meeting in late2012, attendances of the General Assembly make a promise to “intensifying global efforts for theelimination of female genital mutilations” (United Nations, 2013, n.p.). Topicof discussion was FGM and its political developments throughout the decade. Theaim is to intensify all global efforts for a faster and more effective eliminationof FGM.
Even though this form of mutilation gains more recognition byclassifying it as harmful, abusive and as a violation against human rights, threateningwith consequences have not always made an impact on families who believe in FGMor practitioners who will be portrayed over the course of this paper later on.In July 1995, WHO held a gathering in Geneva and “convened a TechnicalWorking Group on Female Genital Mutilation” (Toubia & Izett, 1998, p. 5)for inter alia classification and prevention purposes.
WHO wanted to drawattention to this purpose by dividing the procedure into four main types andfurther by underlining the urge to eliminate FGM. Two years later WHO, UNICEFand UNFPA, which stands for United Nations Population Fund, gave a universaljoint statement regarding classifications of different types of FGM. Their definition of each type remain valid to thisvery day.
Type I is the most common type of FGM. It involves removingthe female prepuce entirely. Depending on the case, the removal includes theexcision of the clitoris (clitorydectomy) or just leaving it by removing itpartially. FGM is commonly performed by a female who is trained to practices. Theprocedure starts with the traditional practitioner (excisor) holding theclitoris between index finger and thumb to pull it out with force or “amputateed withone stroke of a sharp object” (Toubia & Izett, 1998, p. 7). Medical gauzesstop the bleeding.
Nowadays practitioners sew together the deep wound formedical purposes. However, there is no habit of applying antiseptic solutionbefore or after the procedure for sterilisation purposes Type II is the second common type to be performed for female circumcisionreasons. It involves removing the clitoris. In some cases, practitioners amputatethe labia minora partially and sometimes even entirely. The practitioner usesthe same techniques as described in Type I for performing the procedure. Thestitches “may or may not cover the urethra and part of the vaginal opening”(Toubia & Izett, 1998, p.
7) leading to an accidental infibulation. Type III involves removing the vulva partially or entirely. Practitionersremove the clitoris and the labia minora using the same techniques as describedin Type I and II.
“The raw edges of the labia majora are brought together tofuse, using thorns, poultices or stitching to hold them in place (…)” (Toubia& Izett, 1998, p. 7). After those procedures, the girl’s legs are tiedtogether for several weeks. The skin starts to heal and forms a visible scar whichwill cover the urethra and the vagina opening.
This makes sure that it isphysically impossible to have (premarital) intercourse. However, a tiny openingat the bottom of the vulva will allow urine and menstrual blood to excrete.After marriage, performing intercourse will be only possible “aftergradual dilatation” (Toubia& Izett, 1998, p. 8), if the opening is wide enough. The dilatation canstill take up to two years. In case of a rather small opening, it is traditionthe husband or female in-laws to cut open the infibulation using shatteredglass or a knife (Toubia & Izett, 1998).When giving birth, infibulation must turn intodefibulation in order to allow the young infant to exit the body.
After delivery,there will be a second infibulation performance on the mother. Since thehusband will be more pleased with a tighter vaginal opening, to create the samesized opening before delivering is the primary goal. Women with Type III FGMare more likely to experience some of the procedures more than once in theirlife. The more they deliver vaginally, the more Type IV remains unclassified and involves awide range of different procedures:infibulation recurs.