Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Mutilating girls is abhorrent

Published:Tuesday | February 9, 2016 | 12:01 AM


February 6 is set aside by the international community to acknowledge the International Day for Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. This procedure differs according to the ethnic group and is most prevalent between ages 0 and 14 years. This procedure is typically carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade, with or without anaesthesia.

While female genital mutilation is not an issue in Jamaica, at least some 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, with half of them living in Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia. The latest figures provided by UNICEF show nearly 70 million more girls than previously thought have been subjected to ritual cutting. FGM is a creation by males to keep women subjugated and powerless. Men have no right to tell women what they should do to their bodies.

While I understand that FGM is steeped in cultural norms and practices grounded in patriarchy, there are sometimes serious health issues associated with it. There are social, physiological and physical consequences for girls and women who are often forced to have this procedure.

According to the World Health Organization, the risk to girls who have had this procedure is severe, and many face long-term health problems such as infections, infertility, complications in childbirth, urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections), scar tissue and keloid. Disturbingly, only 18 per cent of FGM are conducted by health workers.

FGM has no health benefits and violates the human rights of women and girls. Other countries practising FGM include Nigeria, Somalia, Senegal, Sudan, Chad, Yemen, Mali, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Djibouti and Mauritania. It is also practised among migrants groups in developed countries.

It is rather disappointing that issues surrounding gender and gender-based violence are not being discussed on the campaign trail by our political parties as Jamaicans prepare for the general election of February 25. The time to empower our women and girls is now.