TWEET-CHAT TRANSCRIPT- Health implications of FGM: Immediate Complications – 3rd June, 2021
FGM has been universally confirmed to be a harmful practice that does no one any good. Instead, the pain and suffering it bestows on our women and girls and by extension the society is incalculable.
Many a time, emphasis is on the long-term complications of FGM which affects women’s physical, mental and sexual health and well-being throughout the life-course. This is no doubt an important fact.
In the short term, however, the process of removal and injuring of healthy and normal female genital tissue which is what FGM is all about interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies leading to immediate consequences with chances of death.
It therefore implies that it takes the survival of the immediate negative implications of FGM first to be able to live to tell the story and as well grapple with the long term consequences of the harmful practice.
In case today is the first time you are joining us, FGM stands for ‘’Female Genital Mutilation.”
FGM refers to any procedure that involves “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
Many different forms of FGM are practiced across cultures. FGM typically includes all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified FGM into four types, all of which are practiced in Nigeria. They include:
FGM Type 1 is defined as the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (Clitoridectomy). The subgroups of Type 1 FGM are: type 1a, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; type 1b, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.
FGM Type 2 entails the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision). Subgroups of Type II FGM are: type 2a, removal of the labia minora only; type 2b, partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora; type 2c, partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.
FGM Type 3 involves the narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation). Subgroups of Type III FGM are: type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; type IIIb, removal and apposition of the labia majora.
FGM Type 4 is also known as unclassified and involves all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
The FGM Type 4 also includes the practice of “massaging” or applying petroleum jelly, herbal concoctions or hot water to the clitoris to desensitize it or pushing it back into the body, which is common in many parts of Africa including Nigeria.
FGM is a form of violence against women and children and is frequently practiced as traditional rites across many different cultures. Often as a part of traditional beliefs, FGM is wrongly practiced as a means to beautify women sexually and equally wrongly assumed to preserve virtue.
FGM is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who may have other roles in the community, such as Traditional Birth Attendants. In other instances, willing medical professionals are being sought out by parents to have the procedure carried out on their daughters.
FGM has no known health benefit, and is harmful to girls and women. It involves altering, removing and/or damaging otherwise healthy female genital tissue.
The practice of FGM continue to prevail for reasons including; Respect for Tradition, Rite of Passage, Social Convention, Marriageability, Virginity, Fertility, Chastity and Faithfulness, Cleanliness, Femininity, and Religion.
FGM is not required by any religion and there is no scientific evidence that women who have been mutilated are more faithful or better wives than those who have not undergone the procedure.
It is therefore very clear that there is no single benefit derived from FGM and possible medical complications includes but not limited to: severe bleeding, cysts, infections, difficulty urinating, issues with childbirth and even death. FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. Today we focus on the short-term negative health complications that arises from the harmful practice of FGM. They are presented below:
Severe pain: The first or most immediate negative implication of any cut or injury to the female genital organ is a sharp pain.All parts of the human body are supplied by nerves. Essentially, however, the female genital organ is extraordinarily lined by nerves designed to help make sex pleasurable.
Incidentally, this enormous nerve supply translates any cut or injury that happens during FGM into a sharp pain that can be so excruciating.The healing period of this injury is also extraordinarily painful.
The only one way to save the girl child from this pain is to essentially abandon FGM and leave the female genital organ as God created it.
Excessive bleeding (haemorrhage): any cut or damage of the clitoral blood vessels such as the clitoral artery or clitoral vein results in bleeding or haemorrhage.
Haemorrhage at any part of the body is a serious health risk. This is because blood is essential for the overall function of the body and the sustenance of life.
In events when excessive blood is lost, supply of oxygen and nutrients to various parts of the body especially the brain will be impaired. This, if not arrested early can lead to death.
This situation can be worsened if the person being subjected to FGM has hamophilia which is an impaired ability to naturally control bleeding.
In light of this, abandonment of the practice of FGM remains the only way to save our women and girls from such harm.
Shock: this is yet another immediate health implication that can result from FGM. It could occur as result of the pain, haemorrhage, or infection. shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow.
Lack of blood flow means the cells and organs of the body do not get enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly. Incidentally, shock can lead to the damage of many body organs.
Avoiding the practice of FGM is, therefore, a good way to avoid the accompanying shock experience.
Trauma: this is also another short-term consequence of FGM. trauma is an emotional response to an accidental event that is deeply disturbing and distressing.
FGM is a traumatic experience because in many ways it overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope because of the feeling of the helplessness that is experienced during the act.
Trauma experiences are always better averted than felt and this is yet another reason why FGM should be totally eliminated.
Genital tissue swelling: A physical and yet painful increase in the size of the surface of the genital area is another short term health implication of FGM. This tissue swelling can occur as a result of inflammatory response or local infection.
Whichever way, genital tissue swelling is both painful, traumatic and has the potential to degenerate further to other long term complications like keloid and others. Situations like this can be better avoided by the total abandonment of FGM.
Infections: the open surface resulting from the cut or injury during FGM can provide an avenue for the entrance of pathogenic microorganisms. The resulting infection can range from HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, syphilis, gonorrhea, just to mention but a few. The risk of infection is especially increased when unsterilized and contaminated instruments are used to carry out the practice (e.g. use of same instruments in multiple genital mutilation operations).
The FGM survivor also runs another risk of infection ( e.g. tetanus) during the healing period.
Importantly, FGM is harmful no matter how, who, or where it is performed.
Urination problems: These may include urinary retention and pain passing urine. This may be due to tissue swelling, pain or injury to the urethra. This difficulty in passing urine or lack of control over the passage of urine may degenerate further into long term complications like of vesicovahinal fistula (VVF).
Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) is an abnormal opening between the bladder and the vagina that results in continuous and uncontrollable urination or urine incontinence.
Mental health problems: The pain, shock and the use of physical force during the event, as well as a sense of betrayal when family members condone and/or organize the practice, could all lead to mental destabilization of the survivor.
Death: Death is one of the immediate risks that could emanate from the practice of FGM. Death of a woman or girl child subjected to FGM can arise from the excessive pain, trauma, shock and bleeding if not arrested.
From the above, it can be seen that there are myriads of immediate negative health complications that could arise from the practice of FGM including death.
Going forward, therefore, all hands must be on deck to accelerate the total elimination of FGM in Nigeria and globally.
Commendably, the last one decade has seen a lot of global efforts all geared towards the total elimination of FGM by the year 2030 in line with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) goal 5 target 3.
Notable amongst these efforts is the largest global programme on FGM – the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change (the UNJP) @GPtoEndFGM
The UNJP @GPtoEndFGM targets the most vulnerable and marginalized girls and women, who face multiple and intersecting factors that increase their risk of undergoing FGM.
Phase III of the Joint Programme began in 2017 with a commitment to expanding a gender transformative approach to eliminating female genital mutilation.
Annually, more and more progress is being made. However, much more still needs to be done.
Multiple strategies are being relentlessly employed to this end including the stimulation of community-led solutions where local actors are fully engaged and in turn lead the change from the front.
Time has come for all Nigerians to take personal decisions against FGM and to become End FGM advocates and ambassadors in our families, and across our social networks.
Time has come for us to speak out and to alert relevant agencies whenever we find out that anyone in our neighborhood or community is about to subject any girl child to FGM.
Time has come for various cutting communities across the country to that have not taken a public stand against FGM, to organize an open community public declaration on FGM abandonment. Such communities should thereafter go a step further to set up a community owned surveillance mechanisms that will ensure that no girl in that community will be mutilated going forward.
The social norm that sustains the practice of FGM around the world rests on the shakiest of foundations: it is composite of faulty beliefs, perceived obligations and inferred expectations all woven together in a suprizingly durable knot.
Yes, given the strength of social bonds that binds communities together, the norm that sustains FGM has proven difficult to handle.
But it cannot withstand, forever, the forces of reports of the harm the practice causes, the reminders that it violates the human rights of girls and local laws alike, the poignant voices of survivors, and the mounting evidence of changing attitudes.
It cannot withstand the force of collective action and social evolution. Our work is to accelerate FGM’s inevitable demise.
On this note, we’ve come to the end of today’s edition of our weekly Twitter Conference of the Endcuttinggirls Social Media Campaign; a UNICEF-supported activity under the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Elimination of FGM): Accelerating Change (Phase III) in Nigeria.
Thanks for being part of our conversations today. Join us every other Thursday 5-7pm.
For more information about FGM you can kindly visit http://new.endcuttinggirls.org/ or or https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation
Also do well to follow the handle “Endcuttinggirls Nigeria’’ on all social media platforms for constant updates about the #EndFGM campaign.
You can also watch our YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0-dYD9cYKo&t=80s
It’s time to hear and respond to your questions and/or opinions based on the conference. Keep them coming.