It is estimated that more than 150 million women worldwide have undergone female circumcision operations. About three million girls in Africa are forced to undergo the procedure each year in 28 different countries, primarily in Africa and the Middle East.
Female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM) involves all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons such as the removal of clitorises or labia. To learn about the 3 main types, you can visit the FGC Education & Networking Project site.
The cutting is often done without anesthetic, in conditions that risk potentially fatal infection — often using scissors, razor blades, broken glass and tin can lids. And unlike male circumcision, female circumcision has no health benefits for women. In fact, the health risks include: hemorrhaging, serious infections, infertility, STDs, and psychological illnesses such as depression.
Although currently concentrated in certain regions like part of Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, FGM has been practiced all over the world and has been traced back to the Ancient Egyptians! And, it’s still going on today – read this Guardian article where British girls talk about their experience with FGM and how it has affected their lives.
Many cultures have practiced forms of FGM, from the Victorian English who believed cliterodectomies would treat psychological disorders and prevent women from masturbating to the Kikuyu, a Kenyan indigenous tribe, fighting against imperialistic colonizing forces.
Each culture has practiced FGM for a different reason – from shame of its aesthetic appearance, to the desire to be pure, show strength and preserve culture.
The UN banned FGM as a human rights violation in 2012 although it is the belief of third wave multicultural feminists and cultural relativists that it is both impossible and inappropriate to judge or evaluate the practices of a culture that is not one’s own. Any evaluation by an outsider will always be biased.
Recently, the term FGM has been replaced with FGC – the C stands for cutting. The substitution of the word cutting with mutilation is indicative of a discourse that is more open and accepting of cultural differences as the word “mutilation” itself implies judgment, vulgarity, and a demonization of the not only the ritual, but cultures that practice it.
Maxim Hygiene Products has chosen to write an unbiased piece on FGM/ FGC because we want you to educate yourself about the practice. Learning about why certain cultures accept and promote this ritual is a critical element of understanding the practice and the first step towards creating an opinion on it.
This January, Maxim has written several posts celebrating the vagina, Eve Ensler and V-Day, the organization behind the One Billion Rising movement. Our commitment is to protecting women’s health by giving them options and the knowledge to make their own choices.