The Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
TheFemale Genital Mutilation (FGM)
TheFemale Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Thepractice of the female genital mutilation (FGM) has receivedattention over the recent years from both the national and theinternational forums. One of the essential issues that have beendiscussed in length is the role of the enacted laws that they shouldplay in addressing the cultures, beliefs, and norms which are deeplyrooted in the traditions of different ethnic groups around the globe.The common cultural groups involved are the children, girls and thewomen of particular ethnic groups who have been psychologically andphysically affected. The practice of FGM violates the human rights ofboth women and young girls. The practice cannot be separated from thepervasive and deep cited discrimination against women. In the year2000, the world health organization released a report that estimatedover 100 and 140 million women and girls had undergone the cuttingBoth national and international human rights have been violated bythis practice. For example, the practice has deprived the women andgirls the right to good health, right to life and physical integrity,the right of freedom from gender discrimination and the rights of thechildren in general. In the current world, the prevalence of the FFGMis reducing drastically but in some parts around the world like theU.S female genital mutilation is on the rise as compared to theprevious years[ CITATION Car16 l 2057 ].Reasonsattributed to the rise are due to increase in the population growthand the increased number of the immigrants in the region. Despite theincreased rate of FGM, several efforts have been put in placestarting from an individual level, community level, state level andthe international level to fight and eliminate the practice ofcircumcising girls and women among the various ethnic groups aroundthe globe.
Childmaltreatment is common in most of the developing countries around theworld. Young and innocent children have become vulnerable to variousforms of abuses in the current world. The reason why they are abusedis that their support and well-being entirely depends on theircaregivers. Some of these caregivers’ turns against them and startabusing them. Most of these mistreatments that children are subjectedto are injurious and affect them physically, emotionally andpsychologically. Examples of the abuses children go through includeforced marriage, defilement, incest, rape, child prostitution, femalegenital mutilation, child labor, sexual harassment, child traffickingand intimidation. Ghana and the United States of America have beenranked highly in the world as one of the countries with the highestnumber of cases of the child maltreatment especially in the practiceof the female genital mutilation. The preference of the FGM in bothcountries depends on the ethnic groups that are involved though inmost instances it becomes difficult to evaluate since much of thedata is not available for all the groups. The practices of FGM havebeen rising drastically in many countries around the world. From theworkshop organized by the Ghanaian Association for Women Welfare(GAWW) and the UNICEF clearly indicated that more than 125 milliongirls and women around the globe had undergone FGM. It was alsoapproximated that around three million girls and women are at risk ofbeing subjected to mutilation every year[ CITATION Gha13 l 2057 ].The research paper expounds and analyses female genital mutilation(FGM) as one of the acts of child maltreatment and its physicaleffects on girls and women Ghana and the United States of America.
Historyof Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Theorigin of the female genital mutilation is still unclear.Researchers’ belief that, the origin of FGM can be traced back toEgypt, but still no clear information has ever been issued. Thepractice of FGM is mostly associated with the Africans, somecommunities in the Middle East, South America and Asia. From the dataissued it can be assumed FGM originates from cultures, beliefs, andnorms which are deeply rooted in traditions of various ethnic groups.
FGMhas been used as a collective term to define the various traditionalpractices that involve the cutting of the female genitals. Thepractice takes place among girls aged four to twelve years old andsymbolizes a rite of passage. Different communities worldwide carryout FGM at different ages. For example, some communities willcircumcise their girls immediately after a few days from birth, atthe adolescent stage while others will perform the act late beforemarriage.
Typesof FGM Practised
Thereare many types of FGM practiced by different ethnic groups. The paperhighlights the four main types of FGM that most ethnic groupspractice. The first type is what Father Perry from Ghana termed asClitoridectomy. Of this type, the clitoris is partially or totallyremoved. The second type is the excision which involves the removalof the clitoris and the labia minor leaving unclosed vagina. Thethird type of FGM identified by Father Perry is infabulations. Itoccurs when the clitoris and the labia are removed completely, andthe two sides of the vulva stitched together using thorns or catgut.Usually, a small path is left to allow urine and the menstrual flowto pass out. The last type of FGM is the one that involves thepiercing of the clitoral, burning and scraping or cutting the vaginato introduce corrosive substances into the vagina[ CITATION Wil13 l 2057 ].
PrevalenceFGM in Ghana
Ghanais one of the developing countries in Africa, and it has been rankedtop twelve for child maltreatment. The report issued by the UnitedNations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the year 2013 clearly indicatedthat violence against children as a measure of discipline is evidentand it is practiced on daily routine[ CITATION Tar14 l 2057 ].The practice of FGM is rampant and widespread in the northern part ofthe country, and it is practiced by various ethnic groups within thecountry. For example, FGM is practiced in the following regions ofGhana: the Upper East which consists of the following ethnic groupsBusanga,Frafra, Kantosi Kassena, kusasiMoshie and Nankanne. In the UpperWest, the following ethnic groups practice FGM. They include Sissala,Wala, Chakali, Dargarti and Kantosi lobi. Other regions in thenorthern region include lobi, Basari kotokoli and the Gonja.
Thepractice of child abuse has made Ghana become one of the majorsources of transit point and a destination point for childtrafficking, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation and othermajor forms of child slavery and unthinkable child abuse acts. Fromthe new statistics report released by the United Nations on July 22,2013, revealed that more than 1.3 million women and girls in Ghanahave undergone through the female genital mutilation operations forthe past twenty years. Further, the report indicates that bothmedical doctors, nurses and the traditional practitioners are engagedin carrying out the FGM[ CITATION Tar14 l 2057 ].
TheGhanaian ethnic groups believe that female genital mutilationenhances fertility among the young women, promotes purity, preventsstill Childs and increases the chances of being married. According tothe United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF), it reported that 4% ofthe total population of the Ghanaian women have gone through the FGMby the year 2013. Out of the 4% who have undergone the FGM, 13%support the practice and say it should continue while 2% of the totalpopulation of women in Ghana favor the practice. UNICEF furtherreported that almost 60% of old women between the ages of 45 to 49have undergone through the FGM while 16% of the young girls aged 15to 19 years have also experienced the same practice. In the report,the traditional practitioners lead by 89% as one of the groups thatperform the practice of the FGM while the doctors and nursesaccounted for 1.2%[ CITATION Qua13 l 2057 ].
PrevalenceFGM in the United States of America
Casesof FGM have been on the rise in the United States of America. For thepast ten years, the number of women and girls involved in the FGM hasdoubled (Westcott, 2015). According to the Population ReferenceBureau (PRB), more than a half a million young girls and women areput at risk of undergoing the FGM in the U.S or have alreadyundergone the act[ CITATION USA16 l 2057 ].The figures include 166,173 young girls who are under the age ofeighteen years old. The sole factor in the rise of the practices ofthe FGM in the United States of America has been attributed to a highnumber of immigrants from Africa and Middle East where the culture ofFGM is deeply rooted in their traditions. Also, the high populationgrowth is another factor that has greatly contributed to theincreased practice of FGM[ CITATION Nas15 l 2057 ].
Thestatistics released by the African Women’s Health Centre at Brighamin the year 2004, confirmed that more than 227,000 American womenwere at risk of FGM or they have undergone through the practice. Therise has been associated with the large number of immigrants fromcountries that practice the FGM like Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, andEgypt. Some of the cities that have the largest number of women atrisk include California which is the leading with a total populationof 56, 987 of women and girls at risk. It is followed by the New YorkCity with a total of 48,418, Minnesota with 44,293, as established bythe PRB[ CITATION Wes15 l 2057 ].
Theperforming of the FGM in the United States has been illegal since1996. In the year 2013, a federal law was passed against vacationcutting where young girls were sent abroad to be mutilated. Accordingto Equality Now it is only 24 states in the whole of the UnitedStates of America that have anti-FGM policies and laws[ CITATION Oli15 l 2057 ].
Thesurvey conducted in the New York City to determine the prevalence offemale mutilation showed that 87% of the total respondents admittedhaving knowledge of FGM (Bashir, 1997). The survey involved 40nurses, 48 physicians, 6nurse practitioners, 8resident physicians, 43registered nurses and three physician’s assistants. The majorityaccepted that they have some information about FGM in the media(63%), patient contact (76%), training and conferences (29% and 17%)and other providers amounting to (36%). From the statistics collectedit was established that almost two-thirds of the respondents hadtreated circumcised women.
Beliefsand Assumptions of FGM
Differentethnic groups around the globe have different beliefs and assumptionsconcerning the practice of the FGM on women and young girls. Themajority of them believed that FGM was a custom and a tradition andtherefore ought to be practiced. They believe that through cuttingthe genital parts of the young women, it will help to maintain andpreserve the continuity of the tradition through cultural identity.Through the circumcision of girls, they believed that their womenwould be pure, honorable and their culture will be transferred fromone generation to another. People also believed that FGM would helpto control women’s sexuality through reducing their sexualfulfillment. This ensures that women remain virgins till they getmarried. FGM was also practiced due to social pressure most womenwho were circumcised in a given region forced other women to undergothe same act so as to have the same identity. Lastly, FGM waspracticed because of the influence of religion. Some religions likethe Muslims, Christianity, and Protestants involved themselves withthe practice of FGM. But it should be remembered that religion isnot connected to female genital circumcision in any way.
AssociatedRisks of FGM and the Cultural Groups Involved
Despitethe ban of FGM in the United States of America, Ghana and othercountries in the world, still many ethnic groups practice FGM. Forexample, in Ghana, several cases of FGM have been reported moreespecially in the Bwaku area. Most parents are said to be carryingthe practice secretly without knowing the kind of sufferings pain,and torture they are subjecting their daughters to. FGM is associatedwith both short-term complications and long-term effects. Short termeffects include excessive bleeding, infection and severe pain. In thelong term, FGM causes heightened pregnancy and other related risksduring childbirth. The risks can attribute to scarring of the vulvaand the vagina which can lead to obstruction during the deliveryprocess. Also, FGM causes problems of infection of the genital andthe urinary tract which causes complications during the deliveryprocess[ CITATION Mic14 l 2057 ].
Onthe other hand, FGM can lead to immediate and long-term physicaleffects which vary according to the type and the kind of procedureemployed when carrying out the mutilation. The immediatecomplications include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, retention ofurine and to some extent can cause death. Also, an individual can beaffected psychologically by undergoing the FGM where one may expressthe feelings of anxiety, terror betrayal and humiliations[ CITATION Mic14 l 2057 ].
FromGhana, one Member of Parliament, Madam Alijata Sulemana from the Tumuconstituency confessed that FGM continues to cause destruction inmany families. Most women are losing their marriages because of theirinability to meet their sexual obligations towards their husbands.Madam Suleiman herself being a victim of FGM, she gives herexperience after undergoing FGM. She wanted to get five kids, but herdetermination bore no fruits after undergoing severe complicationsfrom the cutting. She openly says that she has been experiencingnumerous marital incidences from childbearing to meeting her conjugalrights[ CITATION Gha13 l 2057 ].
Comparisonof FGM in Ghana and the United States of America
Fromthe statistics collected from both countries, it depicts and portraysFGM as a serious problem. Young girls and women have been subjectedto the practice which is against the laws depriving them theirrights. FGM in both countries is perceived as an illegal practicewhich violates the rights of women and children. Most of thecommunities practicing it tend to do it secretly without beingnoticed. Both types of FGM are practiced in both countries whichleave the young girls and women in severe pain, torture, andsuffering. Both countries tend to look at the practice as a rite ofpassage, and therefore celebrations are being carried to mark thetransition which is against the law.
Onthe other hand, FGM in the United States of America is practiced bythe immigrants whose cultures have been termed as deeply rooted inthe traditions. Both individuals from Africa and the Middle East havebeen blamed for the increased practice of FGM in, the U.S. Thecurrent statistics approximates more than 500,000 women, and girlsare at risk of being cut. FGM in Ghana is practiced by the natives.People from various ethnic regions within the country are involved inthe practice. The new immigrants in the country have also beenintroduced to the practice by the natives.
TheEthical Implication of FGM
Nurses,doctors, and midwives in both public health institutions and privatefacilities are getting involved in the practice of FGM. Manyjustifications have been given besides economic factors that there isno big harm if FGM is carried in a clean environment that hasanaesthetics and infection control. It was established thatmedicalization offers an opportunity to encourage the less severeforms of FGM as the first step towards eliminating the practice ofcircumcising girls. The fact remains that whether the mutilation iscarried in the hospital or the bushes, it remains to be a deliberatedamage of the healthy organs without any scientific prove. Healthpractitioners should be aware of the practice and be able to identifyyoung women and girls subjected to it. They should be ready to givesensitivity culturally and clinically informed care which should beconcerned with the management of the complications. They should treatsuch cases as per the standard required and later make a significantinvestigation to administer a specialist support. The medicalpractitioners can ensure that women who have undergone Through theFGM receive proper care and support through the following
Being open to discuss the practice of FGM with the patients and the families.
Provision of support and counseling for adolescents girls
Informing them about the practice of the FGM, asking questions and gauging the level of support and perspectives on families.
Offering physical examinations of genitalia as part of screening
Recognizing and treating complications
Performing physical examination in a sensitive manner
Theworld’s professional bodies such as the International Council ofNurses (ICN) have declared their firm stand in opposing themedicalization of the FGM. They have advised that there are nocircumstances under which FGM can be performed in healthy facilitiesor performed by the health professionals since it violates the humanrights.
Programsto Eradicate FGM
FGMcontinues to pose a great danger to young girls and women of Ghana,America and other nations that practice female circumcision. Thepolicy makers and the professionals that advocates for the rights ofchildren and women have adopted some intervention strategies fromforeign countries to fight against the practice of FGM but most ofthe time the foreign- based interventions adopted have proved to beineffective in fighting this form of child abuse among the developingcountries. Despite the fact that FGM reported cases are increasing inAmerica and Ghana, the governments of both countries have tried toenact some policies and laws that portray FGM as a violation of thehuman rights. Various strategies have been put in place to safeguardthe dignity of young women and girls in the country. For example inthe year 1994, Ghana as a country enacted the first law thatcriminalized the practice of FGM. Since then many cases of peoplebeing prosecuted and jailed for performing FGM have been widelyreported especially in the upper west and upper east regions in thecountry. For example in the year 2003, the court in the upper westregion imprisoned an old woman aged 45 years who was a farmer forfive years for the offense of circumcising three young girls.
Accordingto the constitution of Ghana, it defines a child as anybody who isbelow 18 years as per the children’s act of the 1992(ACT560).Section 13 of the same constitution defends the children from anyform of torture and degrading treatment. It further inhibits any formof cultural practice that which is dehumanizing in nature orphysically and mentally injurious for the well-being of a child[ CITATION Tar14 l 2057 ].
Also,the government is trying to incorporate the ministry of chieftaincytogether with the traditional affairs to prevent certain traditionalpractices that are harmful and dangerous to the lives of the childrenin the country. Through the collaboration of the two parties, it hashelped to reduce the FGM that has been affecting the childrenpsychologically, physically and emotionally hindering their futuredevelopment. Also, the ministry has worked hard to restructure theministry’s programs that will achieve the best results throughpassing affirmative action bill that will regulate domestic violenceagainst children in the country[ CITATION Tar14 l 2057 ].
Anotherstrategy that the ministry of gender and social protection has put inplace is the activation of a helpline through which children can calland report cases of abuse at any time without any fear. Also, thecountry of Ghana has mobilized people and promoted awarenesscampaigns to rally the challenges that circumcised girls and women gothrough. All these efforts have managed to reduce the cases of FGMdespite the fact that some of the ethnic groups are still practicingit[ CITATION Edo13 l 2057 ].
Communityinvolvement in the prevention of the female genital mutilation
Ourexperiences in life are deeply rooted in the values, norms, andattitudes that an ethnic group holds on. Individuals need to knowthat it is very important to make a sound judgment and decision aftercarefully analyzing and examining these values and attitudes. Weshould hang on the values and attitudes we deem are right in ourlives and leave those values with no importance.
Thecommunity can get directly in the fight against the FGM throughchanging and assisting other individuals, families and other groupsto change and clarify their values, beliefs, and attitudes about theFGM. This can be done through establishing reasons why mostindividuals or communities practice FGM and what happens to those whogo through the process. The findings can be used as a foundation tooffer basic education and information on the anatomy and physiologyof the reproductive system of the female, their healthy and sexualityand the consequences of the childbirth. Through these teachings,individuals and communities get to familiarize with the good andharmless practices and those that are dangerous. Various strategiesemployed in getting individuals, families, and communities in theprevention of the FGM include
Integrating the counseling and education into day to day activities, nursing and midwifery practices against FGM
Identifying those leaders who are influential and other key figures in the community whom you can easily collaborate with in fighting FGM.
Conducting frequent visits to the individuals and families’ homes to enlighten them on the dangers associated with the FGM.
Forming and establishing small focus groups to discuss and share the information with the rest.
Assisting and supporting the individuals and families to cope with the problems of FGM and adjust to changes.
Coming up with strategies that will change the practices of FGM, for example adopting culturally acceptable alternatives of marking the rite of passage
Identifying resources within the community that can be used in the prevention of the FGM
Inshort unique strategies should be employed that will involve theyouths, men, women and groups for the fight against the femalegenital mutilation.
GovernmentInvolvement in the Fight against FGM
Itis crucial to involve the government and the political leaders in thefight against FGM. This is because they are the major decision andopinion makers in the society with the responsibility of makingpolicies and laws. The provisions of the government’s duty to takeaction in the practice of the FGM have its foundation in theprovisions of the human rights treaties. For example, the civil andpolitical rights covenant obligates that the state should ensure thatthe rights guaranteed are respected. This gives the government andfull authority to prevent any form of human right violations by theprivate sector or the government. The treaties give the governmentsome powers to modify the customs that tend to discriminate womenfrom the rest. It can perform this through the creation of publicawareness among the sectors of the society, enacting legislativemeasures backed with sanctions of all kinds of the FGM. Thegovernment should also provide support to victims such as healthservices, emotional support and the legal and judicial support.Counseling and training the young girls and women about their rightswill help to reduce the practice of FGM.
Strategiesenacted to abolish child abuse are well enshrined in the ChildrenRights Convention and the African Charter. It recommends all thestates to enact measures that are appropriate with the view ofeliminating traditional practices that are dangerous. The conventionterms FGM as the harmful traditional practice that all governmentsmust work hard toward eliminating it[ CITATION Edo13 l 2057 ].
Thepractice of the female genital mutilation has a complex procedurewith complicated past history. It is important that individuals,families, groups and the government, in general, ought to understandthe procedure of the FGM and the increased prevalence across theworld. For example, in Africa, the national prevalence level of FGMamong women aged between 15-49 years range from 5% in Niger to 99% inGuinea. The female circumcision in Africa is not common and is onlywidespread in 28 countries. The recent statistics on the prevalencerates by the Demographic and Health Surveys on the female cuttingindicated that the practice has changed over the past years. Itindicated less cutting than in the past, and presently girls arecircumcised at a tender age under sterile conditions byprofessionals.
FGMin America has been associated due to increased number of theimmigrants from those countries that practice female cutting. Verylittle is known about the prevalence rates in the United States ofAmerica. FGM in both countries causes physical suffering among thecultural groups that are directly involved. Both governments from thetwo countries have banned the practice of female circumcision sinceit violates and deprives young women and girls their human rights.
Thefollowing recommendations can be adopted by the two countries and anyother where female genital mutilation is rampant such as the Africancountries. Also, countries with high numbers of the immigrant canadopt the methods to control and eradicate the practice ofcircumcising girls. The recommendation includes:
The government putting up some legal measures such as ratifying and implementing human rights treaties, adopting reforms that promote equality of the sexes and application of any criminal sanctions for the FGM so as to promote the rights of women specifically the laws of the practice of the FGM
Governments should come up with some regulatory measures. For example, it should put measures that regulate health professional who engages in the practice, involve the NGO without being interfered with so as to monitor the government’s effort to fight against the FGM. The measures should be aimed at specific groups in the fight against the practice.
The government should enact some policy measures that will be able to provide a firm basis for the education and outreach programs and other initiatives that may be aimed at promoting women rights. The educations systems and the media can be used to create awareness among the women and impart them with knowledge concerning the human rights.
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