Female genital mutilation, or FGM for short, is a cultural practice that is done to protect virginity and family honor. FGM holds many misconceptions that are the reason why it prevails in many societies. The common misconception that exists today is that FGM is an antique practice that no longer takes place in the twenty-first century. This would be news to UNICEF as based on their data there are still high numbers of FGM happening every day in multiple countries. In some nations, it is even as high as ninety-eight percent of the women in the country of Somalia have had to undergo. Another misconception is that it only exists in underdeveloped, poor nations, but if we were to look at a map even the United States would have FGM practices light up.
Additionally, there are several types of female genital mutilation ranking from most to least severe. Type I is often referred to as clitoridectomy, Type 2 is often referred to as excision, Type III is often referred to as Infibulation and Type III includes all other harmful nonmedical procedures (pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, etc.) The most prominent type is that of type III-Infibulation or “pharaonic circumcision”. Type III-Infibulation is known to be the most severe form as it involves the cutting off of the female genitalia and stitching to leave only the hole.
There seems to be an understanding of FGM in these communities that remain practicing it that it is the way for women to keep their virtues. That they should not date outside of marriage let alone have any sexual desires. The removal of female pleasure is seen as making sure that she will not dishonor the family name and she doesn’t need to feel pleasure in order to reproduce. Many women who have had this procedure done upon them have actually stated that many girls that have undergone FGM still have boyfriends and go against their families. Hence, means that FGM does not stop or cancel affairs before marriage.
In order for their real change in these communities, I believe that more communication should occur between men and women. A good medium for this would be education. This would start when children are young, so they grow up with the mindset that women are worthy of the same equal opportunities as men, which would teach them that women deserve respect. Of course, this would not be limited to just children, as adults still make up society. In Somalia specifically, there should be the implementation of education programs for both men and women that teach the dangers of FGM and the serious health risks it poses for women in the future. It is possible that we will live in a future where young women are not forced into marriage, have to suffer from abuse, or have to feel the pain of their genitals being mutilated, but this cannot happen unless each society reflects on their wrongdoings so that the future generations can improve on them.
Kasiana Isabel Jimenez is a 23-year-old master’s student. She was born and raised in Miami and is currently living in Glasgow Scotland. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in international relations at the University of Saint Louis Madrid Campus and is finishing her master’s degree in Global security at the University of Glasgow. Jimenez cares about social justice, human rights, and international security. She aspires to be a lawyer and uses her degrees to be a women’s advocate in all aspects of society. Kasiana joined Poltics4her, a youth-led organization in order to help bring out the voices of women that are being silenced or ignored around the world.