Female Genital Mutilation Essay, Research Paper
Thesis Statement: The continued ?underground? practice of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) must be stopped in order to protect women throughout the world from a useless, unnecessary procedure that has been supported by male dominating societies as a means of control, at the expense, and lives, of women.
I. Millions of girls and women have been mutilated by the practice of FGM
A. Model Waris Dirie shares her story of FGM and the consequences it has had on her life.
B. At age five, she underwent the procedure that would affect her for the rest of her life.
II. FGM (female genital mutilation) has been practiced for thousands of years in African and Middle Eastern Nations.
A. There are three types of FGM. The most common is the total excision of all external genitalia and stitching of the vaginal opening.
B. This causes severe physical and psychological health consequences and, in some cases, death.
C. The practice is performed in unsanitary conditions with primitive instruments and no anesthetics for pain.
III. Scarring and damage from the procedure create difficulty in a woman?s life.
A. Painful childbirth
B. Sexual intercourse
D. Infrequent and incomplete physical exams
IV. FGM has origins dating back several thousands of years in Egyptian Societies, but is most prevalent in the Islamic and African cultures.
A. Historic reasons for FGM are based upon control over the sexuality and essence of women.
B. Sexuality is reserved for men and women receive the gift of bearing their children.
V. Parents have believed that by having their daughters circumcised, it will ensure her marriageability.
A. Mothers, who have suffered from the procedure and wish not to have their children suffer, have had their children taken, without consent to perform FGM.
B. Those who refuse the practice are banished from their homes and the prospect of marriage.
VI. FGM is a means to alienate women from a male dominating society.
A. Without FGM, it is believed that women are uncontrollable.
B. Women are seen to be the weaker sex and temptation must be removed physically.
VII. FGM is illegal in most Western and many African nations, although it continues due to lack of enforcement.
A. Underground clinics and homes continue to practice FGM.
B. Health providers are not educated on how to deal with cases of FGM.
VIII. The continued mutilation is a reflection of the mutilating world in which we live.
A. The act of FGM must end.
B. The fight to ban FGM must be supported by men as well.
As many as 130 million girls and women around the world have been mutilated, a fact often hidden from those of Western culture. Bringing awareness to the inhumane torture of women is Waris Dirie, a Somalia-born model, whose face graces the cover of magazines worldwide. Reader?s Digest has featured her face and her own story of female genital mutilation.
At the age of five, she was filled with excitement as she anxiously awaited a special event that would take place the following day. Her favorite meal was prepared and she received extra attention from her family. The following day, after a night of sleeplessness, she was taken into the brush, where she and her mother awaited the arrival of a gypsy the family had requested. When the gypsy arrived, the girl was frightened and confused about the reason for her presence. The child was brought to a large, flat rock, where her mother restrained her tiny body. She became frozen with fear as her mother placed a root between her teeth and instructed her to bite. Peering between her legs, she watched the old gypsy rummage for her instrument. A broken razor blade, with evidence of dried blood, was spit on and wiped clean on the gypsy?s tattered dress. The girl was blindfolded so as not to witness the sawing of her own skin. The pain was so excruciating, she blacked out. When she awoke, punctures were being made through her skin so she could be sewn together. With her legs numb and the intense pain felt between them, she prayed for her own death. When the child awoke the second time, she found her legs and thighs bound so she could not move. She turned to the rock where the episode had taken place to find it drenched with her own blood. Lying alone with her legs tied, she could do nothing but wonder, ?Why? What was it all for?? (Dirie, 1999).
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision, has been practiced for several thousand years in almost 30 African and Middle Eastern nations. It varies in degree, ranging from cuts around the clitoris (Type I) to, removal of the clitoris (Type II) or excision of all the external genitalia and stitching of the vaginal opening (Type III). With this last and most common type, the opening left is generally no larger than a match head, scarce opening for the passage of urine and menses. Severe physical and psychological health consequences can result from the procedure, as well as vaginal complications. In many situations, FGM is performed in unsanitary conditions with the girl forcibly restrained and cut with primitive instruments (razorblade, knife, glass, etc?), although it is sometimes performed in medical facilities in rural areas. The age of the child when the procedure is most commonly performed is between two and fifteen.
The scarring and damage caused by this practice creates difficulty in the woman?s daily life, as well as during childbirth, as scar tissue is not as flexible as normal tissue and often creates a difficult, prolonged childbirth, causing risk to both mother and child. Other side effects include: painful menses, blocked urination, vaginal infections, painful intercourse, infertility, and ruptures in the urethra or rectum during sexual intercourse. Health providers find it challenging to perform routine pelvic exams due to the discomfort of the patient. In some cases, a normal and thorough examination may be impossible due to the sensitivity of the area or an inadequate vaginal opening. Some women adapt and live basically happy and healthy lives, in spite of the assault to their bodies. However, many do not adapt and the procedure becomes detrimental to their long-term physical and mental health.
While FGM origins date back several thousand years in the Egyptian Society, this practice is most prevalent in Islamic and African Societies. Most often, the historic reasons cited are marital fidelity, controlling the woman?s sex drive, preventing lesbianism, ensuring paternity, ?calming? her personality, and hygiene. It is commonly considered an important rite of passage. In some regions, a celebration is associated with the event; but in most areas, there is no particular ceremony, gifts, or ritual. Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other religious denominations practice FGM. In many cultures, sexual pleasure is considered to be ?for men,? and the reward for women is babies. Overall, attitudes can vary greatly between the various ethnic groups and cultures practicing FGM. Within some ethnic groups, adolescent sex is permitted, even encouraged, until circumcision is performed.
For parents, reasons for subscribing to this practice range from fear for the daughter?s marriageability and honor, to the insistence of elders of the male community. It must be understood that most parents feel strongly that having their daughter circumcised is in the child?s best interest.
Alice Walker, author and activist, reveals the stories of women who have suffered from the continued practice of FGM. Anything We Love Can Be Saved features the story of a mother who refused to have her five daughters circumcised, having suffered herself. Her girls were taken while she was away and returned home mutilated. Walker also reveals a tale of banishment as told by a young mother who refused to undergo the torturous procedure. She was beaten by her family and thrown out of her home. She was forced to live in the streets and quit school, for she had no means of support.
The practice of FGM is a means in which the male dominating societies of the East alienate women: especially from community power. Women are controlled in community, family, emotional, and even sexual matters. The only matter in which women are welcomed is in the union of marriage; but to be embraced by this union, a woman must subject herself to the torture of FGM. This practice is primarily a means of sexual control, as the right to sexual pleasure is reserved for men only. Since women are seen as having uncontrollable sexual desires, being the ?weaker of the sexes,? the temptation must be removed physically. For the man of the house with multiple wives, in some cases, there is no worry of infidelity or having to satisfy all of the women. Men dictate most aspects of a woman?s life and women are not given the ability to choose freely for themselves in this male subservient society.
FGM is illegal in most Western and in many African nations, although laws have not been enforced and it is still practiced ?underground? in homes or clinics. At this time, the world is unprepared to assist women and girls affected by FGM or seeking to avoid the practice.
Many young women are experiencing serious health conditions due to this female genital mutilation. The laws need to be enforced and health care providers must be available to assist these women, while protecting privacy and being aware that strict family values are still of importance and should be taken into consideration.
The continued mutilation of women around the globe is a mirroring reflection of the mutilating world in which we all live. For the world to know health and happiness, this act of violence against women must stop. We also need the support of men, like Samuel Zan, who is a child of an FGM sufferer and who lost a brother at birth due to this torture. Zan in an interview with Walker, conveys his beliefs on this subject and the overall treatment of women. ??Alice,? he says after a long silence, ?do you know what I believe? I believe that if women of the world were comfortable, this world would be a comfortable world.??