WARNING: This is a sensitive issue that should disgust any civilised person.
It is not often that a barbaric cultural practice continues from the Stone Age into the scientific era – and when it does, it is time for a rethink.
Female genital mutilation is one such practice; the World Health Organisation estimates that over 200 million women and girls have been victims of this cultural (and misogynistic) act of violence, which extends across Africa, Middle East and Asia (including India), and beyond into western nations where immigrants might send their children back to home countries for ritual mutilation.
UNICEF makes it clear that FGM has no health benefits, only harm:
FGM has no health benefits and often leads to long-term physical and psychological consequences. Medical complications can include severe pain, prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death. It can also lead to increased risk of HIV transmission.
Women who have undergone genital mutilation can experience complications during childbirth, including postpartum haemorrhage, stillbirth and early neonatal death.
Psychological impacts can range from a girl losing trust in her caregivers to longer-term feelings of anxiety and depression as a woman.
Stories from victims can be easily found on the Internet. It is not some problem far removed from our world and our reality: it is here and now. It is estimated that 53,000 overseas-born Australian girls and women have been victims to this barbarity. Fortunately, my own country of Australia has – after informed investigation – banned this practice which serves no useful purpose except to inflict pain and oppression upon women. It is even illegal for Australians to take a child overseas for this purpose. Many other countries are also banning this human rights abuse.
“No woman should be told she can’t make decisions about her own body. When women’s rights are under attack, we fight back.”
The United Nations and aligned bodies (including Humanists UK) talk of ending FGM around the world by 2030 – but this will only happen if education, social pressure and activist rage make it impossible for parents and communities to consider further abusing their daughters, sisters and mothers in this way. Attitudinal change is needed by us all – to recognise that women’s issues are not marginalised – and this must translate into action. It is not enough for us to merely disapprove – we must change the world. Perhaps somebody reading this would like to take action.
“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”
― Marie Shear
©2021 Geoff Allshorn