We ought to intensifying efforts to end female genital mutilation

02Feb 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
We ought to intensifying efforts to end female genital mutilation

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is a United Nations-sponsored annual awareness day that takes place on February 6 as part of the UN's efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation. It was first introduced in 2003.

One of the beliefs in support for this day acknowledges that culture is in “constant flux,” and with the concerns begetting FGM being so high-risk, the abolition of such practices must be prompt. This is a movement for the rights of women and their bodies, as well as the protection of their physical health- which can be tremendously affected later in life. These efforts are to benefit actions fighting violence against women and girls as a whole. Every Woman, Every Child (a global movement), reports that “Although primarily concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, FGM is a universal problem and is also practiced in some countries in Asia and Latin America. FGM continues to persist amongst immigrant populations living in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.” In the United States alone, the recent reports of how many women and young girls are affected by FGM staggeringly tripled in numbers in comparison to the previous reports in 1990. About 120 to 140 million women have been subject to FGM over the years and currently at least 3 million girls are at risk each year, in accord to data presented by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is an effort to make the world aware of FGM and to promote its eradication. The World Health Organisation has said that "Though the practice has persisted for over a thousand years, programmatic evidence suggests that FGM/C can end in one generation."

Short term health risks include severe pain, excessive bleeding (hemorrhage), shock, genital tissue swelling: due to inflammatory response or local infection, infections, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), urination problems, impaired wound healing: can lead to pain, infections and abnormal scarring, death (can be caused by infections such as tetanus and hemorrhage), and psychological consequences such as trauma (many women describe FGM as a traumatic event.)

 Whereas  long term health risks include pain, painful urination, menstrual problems, keloids, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), obstetric fistula, perinatal risks, and psychological consequences such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and depression. Infections are also a common effect of these procedures (often happening more than once), which include chronic genital infections, chronic reproductive tract infections, and urinary tract infection. Female sexual health is also affected long term, presenting issues such as decreased sexual desire and pleasure, pain during sex, difficulty during penetration, decreased lubrication during intercourse, reduced frequency or absence of orgasm (anorgasmia). Lastly, Obstetric complications often result post FGM procedures, some of which including an increased risk of difficult labour, having a Caesarean section performed, experiencing postpartum hemorrhage, or a recourse to episiotomy.

UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, together with the European Union Delegation to Tanzania, the High Commission of Canada, the Embassy of Ireland, the Embassy of the Netherlands and the British High Commission highlighted the collaborative efforts that are needed across all sectors of society in Tanzania to intensify efforts to end female genital mutilation at an event held at the Alliance Française on the 16th July, 2018. Although criminalised since 1998, FGM is still almost universal in some communities and girls under the age of one are increasingly the most affected group.

The fight to end FGM is now global, and UNFPA is the lead agency in Tanzania supporting the government to end this practice, which a violation of girls’ and women’s human rights. There has been a decrease in the practice over the last five years but recent data from UNFPA show that population growth is jeopardising progress made to date as the real number of girls at risk is growing.




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