The culture of a particular of people is usually based on their belief and knowledge. It could be shaped by religion and social habits. Over the years, it becomes a shared pattern of behaviours and becomes entrenched as the tradition. Male and female circumcision are cultural practices in a number of societies. Female circumcision is performed on infants and young girls as a matter of compulsion. The practice is based on religious or cultural practices that are viewed as a rite of passage preparing young girls for womanhood and marriage. It is also performed as an intervention to minimise female ‘promiscuity’ by reducing their ability to attain maximal sexual arousal (orgasm). It has been practiced for centuries in parts of the world including Nigeria.
This is the partial or total cutting away of the skin and tissue around the vagina and at times removal of the clitoris. The amount of skin removed and the outcome of the practice varies.
These procedures are by and large surgical procedures undertaken by traditional practitioners under aseptic conditions and without anaesthetic. These practitioners have no understanding of the anatomy of this area and the associated risks. Surgical procedures have inherent complications such as infection, bleeding, discontent with outcomes and death. A large number of girls and women have died of infection after circumcision or bled to death. In addition to these complications, female circumcision affects women’s reproductive health in the form of complete blockage of the entrance of the vagina. This will make intercourse painful or impossible or create difficulties during childbirth. The obstruction caused by female circumcision results in the inability of the baby to be born. The baby dies and at times the mothers die if there is no surgical intervention. There are no health benefits to female circumcision.
ADVOCACY TO END FEMALE CIRCUMCISION
The ill effects (morbidity and death) of female circumcision are enormous and these have drawn worldwide attention to this cultural practice. In the absence of any health benefits there has been a world-wide outcry to put a stop to this practice. You may hear female circumcision described as female genital mutilation (FGM). That is a true description of what exactly it is. It is disfiguring and dehumanising. Girls and ladies are virtually forced to undergo this procedure on the premise of religion or cultural practices. Children have no voice in the matter and its performance without permission (consent) is a form of child abuse. For the older ladies it is done for reasons that have no basis. Women are virtually forced to have it done. This is a form of violence and it violates the Human Rights of women and female children. For the reason of decency, I have chosen not to put pictures of the outcome and harm of female circumcision in this write up.
STOP FEMALE CIRCUMCISION
The time has come to put an end to this dangerous and dehumanising practice. Resistance has come based on emotions and ill-conceived attitudes that an uncircumcised girl will be promiscuous or may be ostracised and deemed not suitable for marriage.
What is required to bring female circumcision to an end is public education that it has no health or sexual benefits and that it is a very dangerous practice. A number of countries including Nigeria have enacted laws against female genital mutilation. There has to be a concerted effort by men and women through increased advocacy to stop female circumcision in Nigeria (and other parts of the world). Step out, Step up and Stamp out Female Genital Mutilation.