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Female Genital Mutilation and How It's Connected to AIDS in Africa

Updated on November 2, 2014

Overview of the FGM Problem

One of the biggest issues plaguing the global world is the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It occurs in various places around the world. However, it is most notoriously known to occur in parts of Africa. The 28 countries that participate in this tortuous practice vary on how common of an occurrence the practice it is. In some African countries, such as Senegal, the Central African Republic, and Nigeria, there is a low rate of occurrence while places like Somalia, Egypt, and Mali heavily practice it.

According to Amnesty International, between 100 and 140 million women and girls are subjected to the practice. In addition to those staggering numbers, an estimated three million girls (roughly 8,000 a day) are at a high risk of having it done to them.

Amnesty International. End FGM: European Campaign. “Where Is It Practiced?” Amnesty International. Accessed November 2, 2013. http://www.endfgm.eu/en/female-genital-mutilation/what-is-fgm/where-is-it-practised/ .

Animation of what happens during the FGM procedure

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation is the procedure (s) that cuts away, alters, or injures the female genitals. FGM is usually done to girls between infancy and fifteen years of age. Adult women also sometimes undergo this procedure. There is no valid medical reasoning for or benefits of this practice.

There are four different kinds of FGM procedures.

  1. Partial or total removal of the clitoris or skin folds around it.
  2. Partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia.
  3. The creation of a covering seal that effectively narrows the vaginal opening.
  4. All other non-medical procedures to female genitals.

World Health Organization. “ Female Genital Mutilation.” World Health Organization. Updated February 2014. Accessed August 2, 2014. www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/ .

Reasons for the FGM Practice

There have been several different reasons given to justify the mutilation of female genitalia. Once again though, these reasons vary depending on what location is being discussed and who is being asked.

Some common reasons for FGM:

  • Premarital sex and/or promiscuity prevention
  • Social norms and/or expectations
  • Cultural beliefs about femininity and modesty
  • Religious support in some areas or cultures

World Health Organization. “ Female Genital Mutilation.” World Health Organization. Updated February 2014. Accessed August 2, 2014. www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/ .

Source

In some cultures that practice FGM, it is the mothers of these girls who perform or insist the surgery be performed.

As a parent, would you ever consider subjecting your daughter to a practice like this for any of the "acceptable" reasons?

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The Results of FGM

Like any other surgical procedure, there are side effects of FGM. However, unlike other side effects, these side effects will usually affect these women and girls negatively for the rest of their lives.

The effects of FGM include:

  • Severe pain and bleeding
  • Shock
  • Difficult urination along with other long-term urination problems
  • Infections in the surgical area, reproductive system, and pelvis
  • Death
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Chronic pain
  • Cyst, abscess, and/or ulcer development
  • PTSD
  • Excessive scarring that makes both intercourse and childbirth difficult
  • Menstrual problems
  • Infertility
  • Later surgeries
  • Painful sexual intercourse for both partners
  • Death of newborns

Amnesty International. End FGM: European Campaign. “Effects of FGM” Amnesty International. Accessed November 2, 2013. http://www.endfgm.eu/en/female-genital-mutilation/what-is-fgm/effects-of-fgm/ .

The other, and to some extent, more deadly effect of this barbaric procedure is the contraction of HIV and/or AIDS.

Source

FGM and HIV/AIDS

While the practice of FGM does not cause HIV/AIDS directly, it does help spread the fatal disease. Many of these procedures are done in a back-to-back fashion without proper cleaning of utensils. FGM is often done with unsterilized tools such as knives or sharp pieces of metal. These unclean tools help to spread HIV/AIDS by being reused over and over again. The blood transfusions that are sometimes necessary along with the ripping or tearing of the vagina during intercourse also help spread this virus.

In countries that commonly practice FGM, the majority (55-60%) of HIV/AIDs infected people are women. These women then pass the disease along to their husbands and/or children.

Keown, Mary Katherine. "Female Genital Mutilation Linked to AIDS." The Toronto Star, September 1.2007. Accessed August 2, 2014. www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2007/09/01/female_genital_mutilation_linked_to_aids.html .

Conclusion

In conclusion, Female Genital Mutilation is an unnecessary, not to mention unsafe, procedure that is occurring to some unfortunate female somewhere in the world. There is absolutely no medical need for it. Not only are the people doing this horrible deed putting the woman under the knife in excruciating pain, but they are condemning her to a life of pain and misery. If she does not die from the surgery itself, then there is a good chance she will either die from infection, in the process of delivering her children, or from HIV/AIDs.

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© 2014 Beverly Hollinhead

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    • BeverlyHollinhead profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverly Hollinhead 

      3 years ago from Ogden, Kansas

      I watched this documentary about the different kinds of mutilations that people do/ have done to their body. They had extremists like the Lizard Guy (I think that's what he was called anyway) that was making himself look like a big lizard. Then there were also less extremes like piercings and tattoos. It was amazing how much people will do to meet expectations for beauty and/or what they think makes them good looking...

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 

      3 years ago from Rochester, New York

      Hey Beverly, I was researching how women have low self-esteem. My wife is like any other woman, I guess, and wishes she were taller or some other trait that she will never be. I was talking to her and letting her know that she is beautiful, head to toe, just as she is. I was wondering what changes men and women DO make currently to their bodies and why. The name of the procedure is labiaplasty, I think. I found that mainly starting in the late eighty's and early nineties, porn stars began to "style" their labia for the camera. In their mind, large labia were ugly. Some doctor (and yes, it was a man commenting) said that formerly women (if they gave a thought to their sexual organs at all) likened them to flowers, lilies and orchids and such. In that context, they are beautiful but then the fad of sculpting their labia began to surge and a sexual "enlightenment" happened where women began to evaluate themselves head to toe and found that they did not like the beautiful organ that God gave them. In a steady rise of popularity, women are going to get "trimmed." In my mind it is mutilation. It is easy for me to say, I guess, because I may change certain aspects of me, if I could. But in all fairness, that would be mutilation too. I also discovered that all of such surgeries are not just for superficial reasons but for corrective reasons, for pleasure and such or comfort. And of course, while the doctor is visiting neighborhoods down south a snip or two is usually done, for aesthetics, of course. Bob.

    • BeverlyHollinhead profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverly Hollinhead 

      3 years ago from Ogden, Kansas

      Thank you for commenting. You are actually the first comment I've gotten, so double thanks. Really? I haven't heard of that before. Knowing our society, it wouldn't surprise me if the belief of ugly sexual organs came from other women. Women are vicious! Apparently, FGM is a practice that has been going on for centuries. It may have been a practice created by man, but there are some women who support it as well. It is considered by some a rite of passage. Personally, I think it's just a way for people to justify the barbaric practice. I don't understand it either, especially as a mother. Granted, I only have sons, but why on God's green earth would you willingly subject your child to something like this?

      Thank you for your kind words. They are truly appreciated.

      Beverly

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 

      3 years ago from Rochester, New York

      I was just reading last night about how many American women are of the opinion that their sexual organs are ugly. Many opt for surgery to change the appearance. I'm not sure if their opinion of themselves comes from men or other women. In these countries, however, I am pretty sure that this is all men's doing. Someone's supposed wisdom and reasoning for destroying one of God's most beautiful creations. I just can't fathom it. Those girl's lives devastated forever at the whim of ignorance. It sickens me. It was an informative article and I voted up and interesting. Bob.

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