FGM is the perfect example of the inequality many women and girls still have to suffer in today’s world. It stands for Female Genital Mutilation. The procedure entails the cutting and damaging of the female genitals and is also known as female circumcision.
There are four different types of FGM, from Type 1 being the least extreme to Type 4 being the most harmful. Within these types, there are many different variations:
Type 1 – Partial or total removal of clitoral glans.
Type 2 – Partial removal or total removal of clitoral glans and labia minora with or without labia majora.
Type 3 – Narrowing of the vaginal opening with a covering seal. The covering is made by cutting and repositioning the labia minora or the labia majora.
Type 4 – All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia e.g. piercing, pricking or incising.
FGM is usually carried out between infancy and the age of 15. Many undergo this harmful practice before puberty or before they get married. It has no health benefits at all, is extremely painful and harms the physical and mental health of women and girls who undergo it. It has both short-term and long-term complications e.g. injury or trauma to adjoining areas, difficulties with menstruation and birthing, infection, or even death. There are many different reasons as to why FGM is carried out. In some communities, it’s an initiation into womanhood, whereas in others, the female genitalia is considered dirty and impure so the procedure is performed to “cleanse” the body. Some believe that the man’s sexual pleasure will be enhanced and will also reduce the woman’s sexual appetite at the same time. However, this does far more than just reduce a woman’s sexual pleasure and appetite, as it causes great discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse.
The procedure has been documented in 30 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia and is a well-established tradition in many communities. Girls who don’t undergo the practice are at risk of being ostracized and “dishonouring” their family.
The latent purpose of this immoral practice is to teach women and young girls that they are inferior to men. In this day and age, where women are still fighting to be seen as equals by their male peers, why isn’t an old tradition that is not only dangerous but extremely misogynistic abolished? Why should women have to give up their control over their body, give up their right to make their own decisions to please a man? FGM, even if done without malicious intentions, is a form of torture and a violation of basic human rights. It’s not just a harmful practice, it’s a connotation for inequality and conveys the message that a woman’s purpose is to serve a man’s needs.
Although there haven’t been many cases of FGM in Ireland, it is still an issue. Organisations like AkiDwA, a national network of migrant women living in Ireland, are aware of women who have undergone the practice. According to AkiDwA, there is estimated to be 5,790 women and girls who have undergone FGM living in Ireland, as well as 1,632 women and girls at risk of it. In 2012, a Criminal Justice Act was passed that prohibited the practice of FGM in Ireland and also made it illegal to take someone to another country to perform FGM on them. However, it is still being done and many cases are never discovered. Multiple organisations are therefore trying to spread awareness about the practice and hope to combat the obstacle that it represents for many migrant women.
AkiDwA have trained “Community Health Ambassadors” that go around the country and bring attention to the procedure, the laws opposing it and the effect it has on women and children physically and psychologically. They have also held events on zero tolerance to FGM day for two consecutive years. In a partnership with ActionAid, they founded the “AFTER” project to raise awareness about how harmful FGM can be to migrant communities. During phase 1 of the “AFTER” project, 36 workshops were operated in Cork and 100 participants were reached. These workshops were held for men, women and girls. ActionAid composed a documentary called “Girls from Earth”.The testimonies of religious leaders, women and African activists against FGM are included in the documentary. Phase 2 of the “AFTER” began in May 2019. They hope to reach 400 people nationwide, facilitate 12 more workshops in direct provision centres and work with major organisations like An Garda Siochana, Tusla, HSE etc. Another goal is to provide members with the skills required to address FGM cases and engage “30 Champions for Change” to advocate for better services for survivors and against FGM.
Pembridge Pictures is releasing the film ‘A Girl from Mogadishu’ in April. The movie is based on Ifrah Ahmed’s story and shows her own experience with FGM and how she got into advocacy. Ifrah Ahmed is also the founder and program director of Ifrah Foundation. Their goal is to eradicate FGM in Somalia, the country with the highest prevalence of FGM in the world, and spread awareness in Ireland.
In my opinion, it’s simply unjust that women or girls have to endure this horrific procedure just to get married and then live with the long-term and short-term agony of it. And let’s not forget the psychological trauma that an event so cruel can do to someone. Whenever I read about the topic I feel upset that there are women and girls who are forced to damage their bodies to please a man and if disobeyed, are being ostracized by their community and family. It’s even more heartbreaking to hear that people are still practising this tradition when they move abroad. Ireland is a country that embraces other cultures and traditions but this is just plain abuse. I believe it’s a system put in place to bring down women, strip their fundamental rights and dignity away and show that men still have power over them.
Please sign this petition below to eradicate FGM in Ireland by 2030.
Photo by Gynelle Leon (This Little Light of Mine, 2015)
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