Answers to your questions on female genital cutting (FGC)

Seventy-year old Kadiga has been circumcising for 40 years. Those in her family have followed suit for three generations approximately 10 per year since then. Kadiga never thought about the consequences. Even though girls died, for instance if a blood vessel was cut and they bled too much, this was not seen as a consequence of the FGM but as God’s will. {Picture Source: UNICEF}
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Who performs female genital cutting (FGC)?

  1. Traditional circumcisers;
  2. Elderly people (male or female);
  3. Barbers;
  4. Herbalists;
  5. Traditional birth attendants;
  6. A female relative;
  7. Members of secret societies;
  8. And unfortunately, some health workers.

Different communities have people who play the role of performing FGC on the girls.

  • When FGC is performed by a health care provider, it is called the “medicalization” of FGC/FGM. This procedure is performed by a health care provider in some places because of the wrong belief that the procedure is safer when it is performed by a health care provider. The World Health Organisation (WHO) strongly urges health care provider not to perform female genital cutting/mutilation.
  • Information provided by UNFPA shows that about one in five girls who were subjected to FGM were cut by a trained health care provider. Countries where most FGM cases are performed by health care providers are Sudan (67%), Egypt (38%), Guinea (15%), Kenya (15%) and Nigeria (13%).

What instruments are used to perform it?

Pieces of glass, special knives, razor blades, scissors, or scalpels.

Instruments used to perform FGM
[Source: Britannica]
Ceremonial knives used for FGM by the Bondo society in Sierra Leone
[Source: United Nations]
Pain relievers and antiseptics are not commonly used for this procedure, hence the high risk of infections. When they are used, it is in some of the cases when it is being performed by a health care provider.

 

Why are there different terms to describe female genital mutilation, such as female genital cutting and female circumcision?

The terminology used for this procedure has undergone different changes.

  • When the international community first learned about this practice, it was called “female circumcision.” However, the term “female circumcision” is said to water down/hide the very serious consequences (physical, psychological, sexual) of genital cutting on women.
  • The label – “female circumcision” – is believed to mislead people into thinking that it is similar to male circumcision and so, is not harmful. UNFPA discourages the use of the moniker “female circumcision” because the health implications of male and female circumcision are very different.
  • The term “female genital mutilation” shows a clear difference from male circumcision; as the word “mutilation” highlights how grave the practice is and buttresses the fact that it is a violation of the basic human rights of women and girls.
  • The name – “female genital cutting” – was introduced in the 1990s. This was because certain people (especially practitioners) did not like the label – “female genital mutilation,” as they found it to be demeaning. It was also feared that the term “female genital mutilation” would alienate communities that practice FGM and make them not to be open to advocates for stopping the practice.
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Somso Kizor enjoys words. She loves reading good books and writing - amongst other things. Somso is passionate about educating people about their health; as this would reduce the burden of diseases and deaths (hence, suffering) all over the world. Let's not forget the popular saying that goes "health is wealth."

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