Mayuravarshini Mohana
Not Helpful

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation. WHO declares that ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’ are to be considered as FGM. There are four types of genital mutilation: clitoridectomy, excision, infibulation and other procedures involving pricking, piercing and cauterising the genitals. In many communities, predominantly in Africa, The Middle East and some parts of Asia, it forms an integral part of dominant culture, as a result of which, social pressure exists in performing FGM.

FGM has serious physical and mental consequences to women, most of which last throughout their lives. UNFPA points out that the psychological stress induced can effect behavioural disturbances in children and cause them to distrust caregivers, in addition to long term anxiety and depression. It also increases the risk of HIV transmission. It is usually performed by traditional practitioners using sharp objects such as knife, razor blade or broken glass. The procedure itself is dangerously executed and often results in death due to excessive bleeding or infections.

It is no doubt that the practice springs from deep rooted gender inequality. Women’s bodies have always been and continue to be a site of oppression. Aristotle, known for his sexist and misogynist views on women, saw the female as a ‘mutilated male’ positing them as deformed figures. Much of misogynist discourse has been framed around women’s bodies, their essential being. FGM is no exception. It is aimed at controlling women’s bodies and sexuality towards the convenience of the male members of a society. The general belief among communities practising the barbaric act is that women’s sexuality would become insatiable without FGM and that the procedure makes them purer. It is also inflicted to ensure a woman’s virginity and fidelity, and is believed to enhance male sexual pleasure. There are also widely held misconceptions that FGM promotes fertility, child survival, hygiene and aesthetic appeal, but these are just myths fabricated to exert female oppression. While most patriarchal practices control the way a woman’s body behaves through cultural narratives, such procedures as FGM go a step ahead in physically incapacitating the female body.

There are many organisations such as Desert Flower Foundation, ActionAid UK, Daughters of Eve and Equality Now who continue their fight against FGM. The pilot version of Mumkin, an AI-driven app that aims to create a safe space for difficult conversations, focused on Female genital mutilation. The app was co-created by Priya Goswami known for her award winning documentary ‘A Pinch of Skin’ (2012) that addressed FGM practice called khatna in India. This is a great initiative, simply for the fact that it encourages conversations on the topic and breaks silence. Most women who undergo FGM are conditioned to believe that it is a normal procedure, and such initiatives help clear such misconceptions. Some countries, such as Sudan, Kenya and Uganda have taken efforts on the bureaucratic level, such as forming laws prohibiting female genital mutilation.

UNICEF points out that the occurrence of FGM has decreased over the past 30 years, with one in 15 to 19 women having undergone the process as opposed to one in two women 3 decade ago. However, there is a new threat to the progress achieved. Education of women has significantly brought down female genital mutilation because it facilitates women to become bread winners. However, UNESCO estimates that nearly 11 million girls will not return to school after the pandemic. Now that education is curbed, families are more likely to perpetrate FGM so that their daughters can be married off in exchange for dowry. That said, the problem can be tackled if governmental bodies dedicatedly enforce strict laws and supervision to curb what is a highly barbaric practice.