Female circumcision a barbaric form of child abuse

by Darlene Barriere
(Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada)

Police in the U.K. are offering £20,000 reward ($40,000 U.S.) for information that would bring to justice anyone involved in female circumcision. Parents who take their daughters abroad for the procedure now face up to 14 years imprisonment.

Also called female genital mutilation (FGM), female circumcision is usually performed on girls between the ages of 4 and 13, but newborns and girls up to 18 are at risk. The girls are generally unaware of what is about to happen to them.

The procedure is usually carried out by elderly women with no medical training, using the most primitive tools such as razors, rusty knives, and pieces of glass. It is not unusual for the girl's mother to hold her down during the procedure. No anaesthetic is used. No follow up medical care is given.

There are three types of FGM:
- Type 1 - the tip of the clitoris is removed
- Type 2 - the clitoris and surrounding labia are removed
- Type 3 - the clitoris and labia are removed and vagina sewn up (using coarse thread), leaving only a tiny hole for urination and menstruation

Type 3 is the only one that can be reversed.

Girls are most at risk during the summer months. The extended school vacation time allows those responsible to cover up what they've done and for the girls to recover from the ordeal.

An estimated 130 million girls and women have already been mutilated. The vast majority live in Africa, though up to 7,000 girls in the United Kingdom are at risk for this form of child abuse.

The practice is illegal in many places, but despite its illegality, the procedure kills hundreds of girls each year .

My Comments: FGM is ingrained in medieval cultural attitudes and archaic religious beliefs.

Some believe that women who have had the procedure done are more virtuous because of reduced sexual desire. It is believed they will remain chaste prior to marriage.

Some view the clitoris as "dirty" and believe that having it removed is a sign of cleanliness. Others believe that in order to safeguard the girl's virginity the clitoris must be removed.

Many families believe it is the only way to ensure their daughters are seen as "pure" and thus desirable by potential husbands.

Still others believe that removing the genitals and thereby reducing or eliminating sexual desire will ensure that in the future, when the girl becomes a wife she will remain faithful to her husband.

Families perceive that having the genitals removed heightens to a level of pure motherhood, a level that is untainted by sexuality. It is believed that when the genitals are "given away" through the practice of FGM, the girl ultimately becomes the matron who is respected by everyone.

FGM controls women's sexuality. As long as attitudes about women's sexuality remain entrenched in shame and perceived filth, the practice will continue. We must change these attitudes if we have any hope of eradicating this barbaric practice.

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