Why every day should be a ZERO Tolerance Day to FGM/C?

With A., an amazing Changemaker and Social Worker against FGM/C in Djibouti City

© UNICEF Djibouti/2017/Boujrada

By Zineb Boujrada, UNICEF Djibouti Country Office

“How does a freshly bought carpet look like? Colorful, beautiful, right? So does a woman’s body that has not been mutilated or cut, that has been kept, protected and respected just as perfect as Allah created it. God’s creation is perfect indeed. “. These were the words of F.A, a “converted” midwife who used to perform Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting to a social activist and community mobilizer and change-maker. She used to perform it before 2008, and since then she has been using her hands to knock doors of neighbors, building the community’s center of management to provide training to girls and women and to help them reach their full potential. Thanks to the capacity building sessions and programs that she benefited from the support of UNICEF Djibouti and monitoring since 2008 up to now. With the involvement of community religious leaders, she leads sessions where hundreds of women and girls learn basics about reproductive health, and cut off with traditions of Female Genital Mutilation. On the picture above, it is A. F.A’s daughter, who is an incredible young woman, full of talent and enthusiasm. She also works side by side with her mother, but that is not all. She is a song writer and a singer, and she uses her art to raise awareness about FGM/C in her school and within her community.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Did you know that Female Genital Mutilation comprises a lots of types?

  • Type I: Also known as clitoridectomy, this type consists of partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or its prepuce.
  • Type II: Also known as excision, the clitoris and labia minora are partially or totally removed, with or without excision of the labia majora.
  • Type III: The most severe form, it is also known as infibulation or pharaonic type. The procedure consists of narrowing the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or labia majora, with or without removal of the clitoris. The appositioning of the wound edges consists of stitching or holding the cut areas together for a certain period of time (for example, girls’ legs are bound together), to create the covering seal. A small opening is left for urine and menstrual blood to escape. An infibulation must be opened either through penetrative sexual intercourse or surgery.
  • Type IV: This type consists of all other procedures to the genitalia of women for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

With that being said, let’s not get into complicated and horrifying statistics around the world, but in Djibouti alone, it is estimated that 7 out of 10 women and girls are at risk or have undergone unvoluntary FGM/C.

Immediate consequences of FGM include severe pain and bleeding, shock, difficulty in passing urine, infections, injury to nearby genital tissue and sometimes death. T he procedure can result in death through severe bleeding leading to haemorrhagic shock, neurogenic shock as a result of pain and trauma, and overwhelming infection and septicaemia, according to Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Almost all women who have undergone FGM experience pain and bleeding as a consequence of the procedure. The event itself is traumatic as girls are held down during the procedure. Risk and complications increase with the type of FGM and are more severe and prevalent with infibulations.

As such, the pain inflicted by FGM does not stop with the initial procedure, but often continues as ongoing torture throughout a woman’s life.

In addition to the severe pain during and in the weeks following the cutting, women who have undergone FGM experience various long-term effects — physical, sexual and psychological.

Women may experience chronic pain, chronic pelvic infections, development of cysts, abscesses and genital ulcers, excessive scar tissue formation, infection of the reproductive system, decreased sexual enjoyment and psychological consequences, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Additional risks for complications from infibulations include urinary and menstrual problems, infertility, later surgery (defibulation and reinfibulation) and painful sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse can only take place after opening the infibulation, through surgery or penetrative sexual intercourse. Consequently, sexual intercourse is frequently painful during the first weeks after sexual initiation and the male partner can also experience pain and complications.

When giving birth, the scar tissue might tear, or the opening needs to be cut to allow the baby to come out. After childbirth, women from some ethnic communities are often sown up again to make them “tight” for their husband (reinfibulation). Such cutting and restitching of a woman’s genitalia results in painful scar tissue.

This practice has nothing to do with religion. It is not healthy nor necessary, and it is an evident organized crime against women’s physical integrity and personal freedoms that is very often done in the name of religion and social norms that are based on ambient patriarchy.

Hearing the stories of ladies and girls who underwent FGM/C and their complications and risks afterwards made me realize how fortunate I am to be a Moroccan born woman. Imagine that at some point of your life, you will have to fight with all your forces and cry your heart out as a group of strong women immobilize you and open your legs in preparation for the cutting? Imagine the psychological and physical traumatism that result from this?

Yes, I was spared and saved because of a pure geographical lottery, but millions of my sisters, women and girls across the world are not, may not have my chance, and they should be protected, and urgently. This is why I have ZERO tolerance to FGM/C and so should you. This is why FGM/C must stop. #endFGM, #stopFGM.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on December 3, 2017.