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Published October 2003 - Updated Oct 2008
LGVN Humanitarian / Femal Circumcision

Hopes to End Female Genital Mutilation

In June 2003, participants from 28 African countries assembled for a high profile conference on female genital mutilation (FGM). Its purpose was to discuss efforts to ban the world's most barbaric non-consenting "operations" on girls.

In a declaration that stops short of an outright ban, governments agreed in principle to adopt legislation against FTM wherever it is politically feasible. This will also require practicing countries to educate their citizens to change attitudes to women and thereby eradicate such mutilations forever.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is an invasive and irreversible procedure usually performed on non-consenting girls before puberty.
More commonly known as female circumcision, part or all of the clitoris is surgically removed.
Many health problems result from the surgery, and contrary to belief, FGM is argueably said to be a non-religious practice.
The cultures and countries where this barbaric practice is forced on 6,000 girls per day (about one every 15 seconds) believe that this brings health benefits and makes women more physically beautiful. In fact, these views are not shared by the rest of the world and the operation can bring on chronic infections, abscesses and benign tumors amongst other more serious long-term effects such as chronic urinary tract infections, stones in the bladder and urethra, kidney damage and more.

Apart from a long list of health risks, this terrible abuse on female genitalia leaves the girl with reduced or no sexual feeling for the rest of their lives.
Surprisingly, it is normally older women who carry out circumcision on the younger girls.
Often, no steps are taken to reduce the pain. The girl is immobilized and held down legs apart. Mutilation can be carried out by any cutting instrument to hand - usually broken glass, tins, scissors, razor blades etc.
After the mutilation, thorns or stitches may be used to hold the two sides of the labia together. In many cases the girl's legs may be bound together for up to 40 days.

FGM is practiced extensively in more than 28 African countries as well as Egypt, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.
It also occurs, in some immigrant communities, across Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and even Europe and North America. Religious links to FGM are unclear, since the practice occurs in both Muslim and Christian countries.
However, the practice is said to be more widespread in predominantly Muslim areas.
In Egypt, FGM was banned in 1997 but it remains extremely widespread, where most Egyptian mothers say they want their daughters to be circumcised.

The elder generations of countries where FGM is predominant assume such mutilation is normal practice although the young girls clearly find it absurd and deeply damaging.
But sadly, they somehow become accustomed to this practice as they get older - and subsequently allow the same mutilation to be performed on the next generation.

The Female Cutting Education and Networking Project is an excellent resource covering news, articles and postings on this harrowing subject.

You can also find out more on FGM at: http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/intcam/femgen/fgm1.htm

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