December holidays are here with us. This is usually the longest holiday for school going children especially in Kenya as well as most African countries. It is during this holiday that boys in most communities are translated into adulthood through circumcision and in some girls also. The sad news is that when girl’s genitals are mutilated in the name of circumcision or else translation of girls into adulthood it mostly ends up in early marriages, it is also a leading cause of school drop outs among young females. For this reason communities around the world should join hands and end FGM!
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a term now generally accepted for the traditional practices that involves injury or removal of part or all of the external genitalia of girls and women. It does not include genital surgery performed for medically prescribed reasons. Prior to the adoption of “female genital mutilation”, the practices were referred to as female circumcision, a term still in common use and preferred by the majority of people in communities where it is practiced.
The mutilation procedure causes extreme pain in particular because it involves cutting of nerves and sensitive tissue. Proper anesthesia is rarely used and, when used, is not always effective. The healing period is also painful and this could scar a woman’s life forever. According to World Health Organization (WHO), FGM increases the health risks to women and girls and is unacceptable from human rights and health perspectives.
CONSEQUENCES OF FGM ACCORDING TO WHO
SHORT TERM EFFECTS
• Excessive bleeding: (hemorrhage) can result if the clitoral artery or other blood vessel is cut during the procedure.
• Shock: can be caused by pain, infection and/or hemorrhage.
• Genital tissue swelling: due to inflammatory response or local infection.
• Infections: may spread after the use of contaminated instruments (e.g. use of same instruments in multiple genital mutilation operations), and during the healing period.
• Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): the direct association between FGM and HIV remains unconfirmed, although the cutting of genital tissues with the same surgical instrument without sterilization could increase the risk for transmission of HIV between girls who undergo female genital mutilation together.
• Death: sometimes death may occur due excessive hemorrhage and infections.
LONG TERM EFFECTS
• Obstetric complications: FGM is associated with an increased risk of Caesarean section, post-partum hemorrhage, recourse to episiotomy, difficult labor, obstetric tears/lacerations, instrumental delivery, prolonged labor, and extended maternal hospital stay. The risks increase with the severity of FGM.
• Obstetric fistula: a direct association between FGM and obstetric fistula has not been established. However, given the causal relationship between prolonged and obstructed labour and fistula, and the fact that FGM is also associated with prolonged and obstructed labour it is reasonable to presume that both conditions could be linked in women living with FGM.
• Perinatal risks: obstetric complications can result in a higher incidence of infant resuscitation at delivery and intrapartum stillbirth and neonatal death.
• Psychological consequences: some studies have shown an increased likelihood of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and depression. The cultural significance of FGM might not protect against psychological complications
FGM is a torture to women lives, almost all women who undergoes this procedure have shuttered dreams because they are unable to continue with their education and even worse there normal lifestyle. While the men of the same age group are initiated into adulthood women are initiated into a painful lifestyle or even death, FGM can end! If all of us men and women join hands and raise awareness of the associated effects of FGM. There are many alternative rite of passage which young women can undergo to help them become a better person…. Sharpening the knife is not an option