Laura Arias, Staff Writer
Most of us do not perform actions or practices that do not flatter us, especially when they have to do with our body. Though women in America have rights over what they do with their bodies, many young girls and women in different parts of the world do not. Many women raised in Central and North-East Africa must undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), which is a surgical procedure performed to decimate women’s genitals. It is preferred that the female has this done right after birth or soon after birth but there are cases where it is practiced on older women. The term FGM covers a range of procedures, which are also referred to as female circumcision and introcision. Because FGM is part of the culture of many communities in Africa, it has been around for decades without much female action against it.
Recently, an annual report released by UNICEF and UNFPA stated that approximately 1,964 communities in Africa have declared the end of FGM as of last year; bringing the total number of such communities to over 8,000. Additionally, nearly 3,000 religious leaders have publically declared that the rite should be ended.
FGM has been around for so long primarily as a cultural and religious practice. When females go through FGM, it makes them marriageable and, some believe, the mutulation defines her as a woman. Often, when a woman that has not been through the procedure enters a practicing community, no eligible man can marry her until she has had her clitoris removed. Female introcision has also been admired in Africa because it’s a sign of purity amongst the women that have done it.
Though the procedure is perceived as pure, it is widely considered as being anything but. The practice, which is intended to disallow women from being able to receive sexual pleasure, is believed to prevent her from having sex excessively. It is also intended to dissuade a woman from having sex with anyone other than her husband. Commonly, victims of FGM have little in the way of sexual rights. Among other abuses, they are sometimes subjected to intra-marital rape.
The end of FGM in every part of Africa is crucial to the sexual health and rights of women. Recently, parts of Africa are experiencing significant shift in conception of FGM, partially because the women of those regions have resisted the practice. Reporter Tracy McVeigh of The Guardian asserts that women like Sister Fa, a Senegalese hip-hop star, are leading campaigns against FGM. Sister Fa’s goal is to use music to inspire young women to work against ending female circumcision. She believes that young women need to be educated about the problematic practice if it is to be expunged. Awareness seems to be spreading: as of yet, 18,498 communities have hosted educational workshops to educate individuals about the increasingly taboo practice. Additionally, some communities have begun taking legal action against over 120 cases of unlawful FGM.