Female Genital Cutting
|Practices involving the cutting of female genitals have been found throughout history in many cultures, but there is no definitive evidence documenting when or why this ritual began. Some theories suggest that female genital cutting (FGC) might have been practiced in ancient Egypt as a sign of distinction.|
What is female genital cutting (FGC)?
Female genital cutting (FGC) is the collective name given to traditional practices that involve the partial or total cutting away of the female clitoris. Historically, it has been also called "female genital mutilation" or "female circumcision." After the clitoris is excised and all external genitalia are carved away, the bleeding raw edges of the large lips are held together by thorns or other fastening devices - until a scar forms to close the entrance to the vagina. The legs of the little girl are tied together for several weeks until the wound heals; a tiny opening is created by inserting a splinter of wood - to allow urination. Thus virginity - which is considered especially important by Moslem men - can be proven before the bride price is paid to the father.
When is FGC carried out?
The age at which FGC is performed on women and girls varies. It may be performed during infancy, childhood, marriage or during a first pregnancy. FGC is typically performed on young girls who are between 4 and 12 years old, however, by a medically untrained person-often an older woman-from the local culture or community. Instruments used for the procedure range from a scalpel to a piece of glass, conditions are harsh and not sterile. With the increasing awareness of the health consequences of FGC, health providers have erroneously utilized more hygienic techniques to conduct FGC and "improve" the practice.
What are the consequences of FGC?
The potential physical complications resulting from the procedure are numerous. Because FGC is often carried out without anesthesia, an immediate effect of the procedure is pain. Short-term complications, such as severe bleeding, which can lead to shock or death, are greatly affected by the type of FGC performed, the degree of struggle by the woman or girl, unsanitary operating conditions, and inexperienced practitioners or inadequate medical services once a complication occurs. There is a very high risk of infection, with documented reports of ulcers, scar tissue and cysts.
Female genital cutting may also interfere with a woman's pregnancy or labor. Other lasting effects that commonly result from FGC procedures include urine retention, resulting in repeated urinary infections and obstruction in menstrual flow, which may lead to frequent reproductive tract infections, infertility and chronic pelvic pain. FGC is also thought to facilitate the transmission of HIV through several mechanisms. Significant psychological and psychosexual consequences of FGC exist, but these factors have not been adequately studied.