The Effects of Female Genital Mutilation
Circumcision or removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons, either partial or total, is known as female genital mutilation (FGM). This practice takes place in many countries, worldwide, the majority of these countries being in Sub-Saharan Africa and also in other regions such as the Middle East, Asia, Australia, North America and even Europe (Donohoe, 2006). The procedure is done for various reasons in different forms and fashions; firstly, there is the clitoridectomy, the removal of the clitoris or very rarely, only the clitoral hood. Secondly, the removal of the clitoris as well as the excision of the labia minora. Next, there is the process of infibulation. This is the narrowing of the vaginal opening by cutting and repositioning the labia and using it as a seal while also removing the clitoris. Lastly, there are other types of mutilation such as pricking, piercing, incising and scraping the genital area (Billingn, Kentenich, 2001). These methods are used for various reasons such as, traditional, religious and even for cleanliness and preservation of virginity (Reymond, 2001). The main purpose of FGM is usually to mark the transition from childhood to womanhood. The function of this practice, whether mild or severe, is generally to lessen the sexual desire of a woman, and so ensure her virginity until she is married. The more extensive procedure, that involves stitching of the vagina, has the same aim as the less severe one, but reducing the size of the vagina is intended in order to increase the male’s sexual pleasure (Nairobi, 2005). Female genital mutilation is a major social issue throughout the world today which holds many physical and mental consequences as well as violations to human rights.
Apart from the belief of some, that this should be done for the benefit of young women, serious physical consequences can result from the procedures as precautionary measures are not taken into consideration. Health problems dealing with genital mutilation can be immediate and long-term. Immediate consequences include severe pain, heavy bleeding, shock, and infections. The process can result in shock through extreme loss of blood which can be lead to haemorrhagic shock, neurogenic shock due to the pain, trauma and inhumane treatment. Instruments such as knives, scissors, razors, scalpels and even pieces of broken glass are used for FGM. As these materials are not cleaned or sterilized and the procedure is generally not performed under hygienic conditions, serious infections can result and can possibly lead to death. The severity of the injuries and prolonged effects depend on the skill of the circumciser, the conditions and sometimes complications that occur during the process. As a custom, this operation is done without the use of any sort of anaesthetic, therefore it is possible for the patient to automatically attempt to defend themselves or simply just react to the pain. Some long term, chronic complications may include difficulty and pain in passing urine, consistent urinary tract infections, pelvic infections, development of cysts, decreased sexual enjoyment, infertility, scarring, delayed menarche, problems in pregnancy and childbirth and many more (Obaid, 2008). As circumcision has occurred, and one is to reproduce and give birth, the genitalia must be cut open and re-stitched after the process. The repeated stretching and re-stitching of the female genitalia, after giving birth, can result in the formation of tough scar tissue. After being mutilated, women are also more vulnerable and at a higher risk of obtaining the HIV infection due to the lack of sterilization of instruments and may be prone to injuries during sexual intercourse (Utz-Billingn, Kentenich, 2008). The main link between FGM and the vulnerability for transmission of HIV/AIDS, however, comes from the increased incidence of pelvic and reproductive tract infections that provide a...
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