More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. A research conducted by the European Parliament says that there are more than 500,000 women in Europe, who have already undergone it.
FGM is defined by the UN World Health Organisation as “a procedure that involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. Although there is no well-known history about this practice it is believed that FGM came from ancient Egypt and is dating back to at least 2000 years. It was introduced as an attempt to establish control over the sexual behavior of women. At present FGM is classified into four types.
The first type is called clitoridectomy and involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals), and in very rare cases, only the prepuce.
The second one is often referred as excision. This is an extirpation of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora.
The most severe form is the third type, which is known as infibulation and composes the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoris.
The forth includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
FGM is recognized by the UN as a violation of human rights as well as a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
Many Europeans, according to the research, attribute FGM to the religious tradition of Islam. However, neither Islam nor any other religion mentions this practice, emphasized Natalie Kontoulis, a leading advocate and communication officer at END FGM European Network.
“Unfortunately people sometimes wrongly think that FGM is a religious tradition and those who carry it out think that they do it in the name of religion. However, there is no mentioning of this practice in Quoran or any other manuscript. The reasons that lay behind FGM are mainly linked to cultural background and influence of communities’ perceptions,” said Kontoulis.
“Someone believes that a girl should undergo FGM before she becomes a woman, thus, literally, she will not become a woman until she is ‘initiated’. Other communities do it in order to prevent women from having sex before marriage. Last but not least, many believe that cutting helps ‘to clean’ women,” said Kontoulis.
Surprisingly, mothers, who undergone FGM and experienced grave consequences for their health, often force their daughters to follow this procedure as well. Experts tend to explain this phenomenon by the pressure coming from the community and the fear that their daughters will be subjected to ostracism.
The research shows that annually there are more than 180,000 girls and women in Europe, who are estimated to be at risk of FGM.