Adanze Njoku

FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. –

An extreme form of gender discrimination, it is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women: including the right to health, security and physical integrity and the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.-

FGM has no health benefits and causes only harm. Women and girls who are subjected to FGM are at risk of both short- and long-term negative health consequences – including for their physical, sexual, mental, and social well-being.-

The direct financial cost of treating the negative health complications caused by FGM can span generations, starting as early as childbirth. –

This puts a significant economic burden on health systems and national budgets, especially in countries with rates of FGM greater than 10%. –

The practice of FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths.

In many settings, health care providers perform FGM due to the belief that the procedure is safer when medicalized1. WHO strongly urges health care providers not to perform FGM.

According to World Health Organization, Female genital mutilation is classified into 4 major types.

Type 1:  this is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans (the external and visible part of the clitoris, which is a sensitive part of the female genitals), and/or the prepuce/ clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoral glans).

Type 2:  this is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without removal of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva ).

Type 3: Also known as infibulation, this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoral prepuce/clitoral hood and glans (Type I FGM).

Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

Deinfibulation refers to the practice of cutting open the sealed vaginal opening of a woman who has been infibulated, which is often necessary for improving health and well-being as well as to allow intercourse or to facilitate childbirth. 

FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

Generally speaking, risks of FGM increase with increasing severity (which here corresponds to the amount of tissue damaged), although all forms of FGM are associated with increased health risk.

The reasons why female genital mutilations are performed vary from one region to another as well as over time, and include a mix of sociocultural factors within families and communities. The most commonly cited reasons are:…

Where FGM is a social convention (social norm), the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing, as well as the need to be accepted socially and the fear of being rejected by the community, are strong motivations to perpetuate the practice. In some communities, FGM is almost universally performed and unquestioned.

FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.

FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behaviour. It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity.

FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman’s libido and therefore believed to help her resist extramarital sexual acts.

When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed (Type 3), the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage extramarital sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM.

Where it is believed that being cut increases marriageability, FGM is more likely to be carried out.

FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine or male.

Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.

Religious leaders take varying positions with regard to FGM: some promote it, some consider it irrelevant to religion, and others contribute to its elimination.

Local structures of power and authority, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice.

Likewise, when informed, they can be effective advocates for abandonment of FGM.

In most societies, where FGM is practiced, it is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.

In some societies, recent adoption of the practice is linked to copying the traditions of neighbouring groups. Sometimes it has started as part of a wider religious or traditional revival movement.

FGM involves costs at all levels of society;emotional, physical, interpersonal, socialand purely monetary. All of them, in variedforms, place a burden on personal, household,community and state economies.

Until now, there have been limited data on the financial costs associated with FGM, making it hard to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of programmes and policies that can prevent FGM by 2030 – a global priority in the Sustainable Development Agenda. –

The new WHO Cost Calculator now provides an economic argument which can be used by those advocating for an end to FGM. –

WHO estimated that the health cost of FGM would soar by 50% by 2050 if no action is taken, as populations grow and more girls are cut.

The cost of ending FGM in counties such as Egypt would be about $876,825,000 and Sudan $274,765,000.

In some countries the costs would amount to 30% of their yearly health expenditure, demonstrating the clear economic benefits of ending FGM, WHO said.

A Global anti-FGM charity @28TooMany said the health costs were a “drop in the ocean” compared to the wider costs for society and the economy.

“Girls who undergo FGM are often married off young, limiting their education and prospects,” executive director Ann-Marie Wilson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“This entrenches poverty in communities and seriously holds back countries’ economic development.”

WHO scientist Christina Pallitto, who worked on the tool, said the long-term impacts of infection and pain could also affect girls’ school attendance and work opportunities.

Consequently, private household economies are deprived of their daughters’ contributions, as well as the entire population of women’s active economic participation.

Costs resulting from FGM have directeffects on investment in Community development by the Government.The gender education gap, maternalhealth, HIV and poverty, are onlysome of the negative indicatorswhich impact on the developmentprogrammes, due to FGM.

For Communities to reducethe burden of FGM, Community leader should sensitize their people on the dangers of the practice.

Community leaders should make a public pronouncement of the practice and enact local sanction to punish offenders.

Religious leaders should delink FGM from the scriptures while address their followers.

Community leaders can set up Community Based Child protection Committees to track, and prevent new case of Female Genital Mutilation.

Community Women Groups can also enact laws within their groups prohibiting the practice of FGM in their communities. 

Male groups can form a Coalition Known as Men Engage Alliance to advocate for the rights of Girls and women in their community and issues around women’s health can form part of their meeting agenda. 

Inconclusion, FGM is one of the key areas for developmentwork as it concerns human rights of womenand girls, gender equality, poverty reduction,maternal health, child mortality reduction anduniversal basic education (linked to SustainableDevelopment Goals).

Thanks for being part of our conversations today. Join us every other Thursday 5-7pm. Visit our website www.endcuttinggirls.org and kindly follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms.

It’s time to hear and respond to your questions and/or opinions based on the topic. Keep them coming.