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FGM Is an Issue of Global Interes


There has been hot world debate concerning female genital mutilation. Governments, religious organizations, cultural groups among others have been on the vanguard leading the debate about female genital mutilation, commonly referred to as FGM. The controversial question is whether FGM is a crime or it is a cultural or religious practice. The medical researchers argue that FGM is a maladapted cultural practice that should not be taken for granted and should be addressed within the context of females’ lives because it concerns their lives. This issue greatly affects women in underdeveloped countries where it is mostly taken as a cultural practice without minding the lives of women.

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FGM is female circumcision that is facing great rejection in most parts of the country. Anthropology and feminist movements are facing difficulties in their attempt to eradicate female genital mutilation. There has been an international effort to eradicate FGM because it is endangering the lives and health of girls in underdeveloped countries. This practice is socially oppressive and unhealthy to the physical lives of women as it makes them more vulnerable to many diseases.

The prime goal of eradicating FGM is to improve the lives of and status of women in the global society. The objective of this research is to expound on the issues underlying female genital mutilation (FGM) globally. The research discusses the issue in a wider spectrum concentrating on how the practice is perceived by different groups, the views of FGM supporters, the negative effects of FGM on women’s lives and society, and finally the efforts made to eradicate FGM.

The actual practice of FGM

Female genital mutilation entails any surgery whether minor or major that is performed on the genital organs of the female. Though taken as being the same as male circumcision, FGM involves major mutilations of the female genital organs and has negative effects on girls. It involves external genitalia cut and removed and is performed on young girls. It is referred to as clitoridectomy if performed on adults which is the removal of the clitoris.

How Various Groups View Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

The term female genital mutilation is the term used by groups that believe that the practice is harmful to the lives of women. As the words go, the practice is perceived by these groups as damaging the female genital organs. The term came to use in around 1970 but late around 1990, it was adopted by the world health organization (WHO) which later in 1991 advised the United Nations (UN) to adopt it5. All this happened after WHO scrutinized what the practice entails and FGM was the best term to describe it. International organizations and local movements against FGM seem to have reached a consensus that the use of FGM to replace female circumcision well expresses their disapproval of the practice.

WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA have jointly agreed that the use of FGM to replace female circumcision puts in the minds of people that FGM is a violation of girls and female rights and that it evokes people internationally to reject it4. FGM supporters do not perceive it as being harmful or violating their rights but as normal as male circumcision. It is taken as a cultural practice or a right of passage that every woman or girl in society should go through. They defend it as not being harmful but as a way of improving women’s status in society.

WHO tries to describe the various forms of female genital mutilation as type I II, III, and IV to denote clitoridectomy, partial clitoridectomy, infibulations with excision, and others not easily Specified. The first three categories involve tissue removal while many others in the “others” category do not entail tissue removal. The recent development in the issue is the attempt by the gynecologists to replace FGM with other surgical operations but the effects are similarly perceived as those of FGM. Despite arguments by its supporters, FGM is still perceived globally as harmful and detrimental to the lives of girls and women.

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The term “Female circumcision” as described by Robinett is Fallacious and does not at all equal nonharmful male circumcision6. She also argues that despite the widespread practice of female circumcision, the practice remains wrong and harmful to the lives of girls and women

Views of FGM Supporters

As stated in the earlier sections, the supporters of FGM refute the use of the word “mutilation” to denote female circumcision arguing that the practice is not harmful and does not endanger the lives of girls and women. The supporters of FGM perceive it as a religious duty and support it via their religious books.

For instance, Muslims argue that “sunna” circumcision was supported by Prophet Muhammad in his saying that is criticized as being controversial. Scholars, however, argue that the practice among the Muslims started during their “ignorance era” as they so call it and they refer to it as “al-jahiliyyah“. Many Muslims currently argue that the passage that some Muslims use to support FGM is not authentic. Quoting Sayyid Sabiq, a prominent scholar, the Muslim women’s league states that all ideas supporting FGM are not authentic.

According to Farlex, the Muslim supporters of FGM argue that the practice helps girls retain their virginity until marriage2. Others argue that the practice is fit for women’s health. Opponents to this view argue that the practice is a “cruel mutilation” aimed at preventing girls from premarital sex and does not have any health improvements on them. FGM is prevalent among Muslim communities; Muslim Africa and UAE (United Arab Emirates countries among others. Egypt had 97% of married women circumcised by 1995 and the practice continues though with much criticism by the international community. It is also practiced by Christians and indigenous groups in countries where the practice is most prevalent. FGM has also been practiced in the United States and the United Kingdom by Muslim immigrants.

Denver journal of international law and policy categorizes various reasons that supporters of FGM use to justify their misconduct. The journal states that the most common of these reasons are religious and mythical. It is also stated in the journal that these reasons have expanded to include psychosexual, sociological, and aesthetic reasons depending on where the practice is done. The supporters of FGM have it that the practice is valued in their culture and they should be allowed to do as they wish.

Under religious reasons for FGM, the practice is not only done by Muslims but even Jews, Christians in countries like Egypt, nonbelievers, and other secular groups practice it. The Muslim religion feels that the practice is demanded by their faith and is noble to them. This is highly criticized by the religious scholars arguing that the Muslim holy book, Koran, does not authorize female genital mutilation.

From the Muslim religion’s point of view, the practice is not fatwas that is there is no justifying statement for FGM but it is stated as macrame or what they call 3rd or 4th order duty that should be followed by the followers. Despite the lack of authenticity of FGM support among Muslims, religious and secular leaders still claim it as a relevant practice in the Muslim faith.

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Sociological reasons for supporting FGM are the most prevalent reasons for the support of FGM. Supporters by this reason claim that the practice is a rite of passage that aims at graduating young girls to become responsible women. In such communities, the practice is made ceremonial and young girls are taught their duties as women graduating to become wives and mothers1. The girl may be shunned by the community if they do not undergo the practice. They are regarded as unfit for marriage and can never be accorded any position of responsibility on the allegation that these girls are immature. The practice is becoming more prevalent as girls face pressure from the community and they fear being shunned; they, therefore, opt to undergo FGM instead of paying the opportunity cost.

Aesthetic reasons are more of illusionary Cultural believes than facts. Communities with these reasons believe that girls are more beautiful without genitalia and they also look more attractive than otherwise. Under the aesthetic reasons are hygienic reasons that claim that the clitoris is untidy and can cause bad odors on girls.

They believe that the presence of the clitoris is harmful to both the man and the child born by uncircumcised women Men can become sterile and child poisoned at birth. These beliefs expose women to the great dangers of losing their womanhood in the attempt to look for aesthetic value3.

Psychosexual reasons claim that women are sexual creatures and that FGM makes them more promiscuous and attractive to men.

Uncircumcised women are therefore regarded as being unattractive and unfit for contact with men.

Effects of FGM on Women’s Lives and the Society

According to international human rights laws, a country should guarantee its people protection of their rights as human beings. In the event these rights are infringed, the international community intervenes to protect the citizens because human rights are universal and therefore universally reinforced. One of the problems that FGM has caused in the global society is the conflict between FGM practitioners and those groups that oppose the practice6.

Most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) protest FGM and have conflicted with the practitioners. Various states have also been conflicting with these groups in their attempt to protect their citizens against violation of their rights. This is because they view the action of the as trying to restrict them from performing their cultural practices freely. However, the state is just performing its duty of protecting the rights of its citizens.

Other effects of female genital mutilation relate to the danger that it exposes women to. Firstly, the practice may cause urinary infections that can destroy the urethra and the birth canal. This causes women to have difficulties in giving birth and may also cause death. The number of girls that lose their lives because of undergoing genital mutilation is too big to estimate.

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The cases of death are accelerated by the way the practice is done in some communities. It is done by unqualified persons and they do not do the necessary medication thus endangering the lives of young girls. In West Africa for example, they use dirt and ashes to stop bleeding after the practice is done. This causes uncontrollable infections like hemorrhaging that result in death2. Women are also exposed to the dangers of contracting tetanus which is also a fatal disease. FGM also destroys other organs especially when carried out by unskilled practitioners using unfit instruments. Other infections include boils, childlessness, and sexual disinfections among others that destroy women’s lives.

Efforts made to eradicate FGM

To assess the effort done to eradicate female genital mutilation, we first acknowledge the presence of legal grounds that stand against the practice. First, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is against FGM and it states that it is a violation of human rights and therefore should not be practiced. This declaration is contradicted by the section about cultural sovereignty that states that the culture of individual communities should be respected by the international community. This is what the supporters of FGM use to claim the authenticity of their claims.

There is also a convention that seeks to eliminate discrimination against women that teaches people to respect women irrespective of their FGM status. This convention seeks to educate society not to discriminate against women but rather respect them2. In some communities, uncircumcised women are highly discriminated against.

There is an international conference that was held in 2006 in Egypt which was meant to solve the contradiction between the Muslim faith and female genital mutilation. The conference was sponsored by a German TARGET group on human rights and it was resolved that FGM is a non-Muslim practice as it contradicts their faith8.

They were described as crimes against women and all Muslims were asked to abandon the practice. TARGET and Muslim scholars reached a consensus that the practice is inhuman and unfit. They charged the media and educational institutions to teach people the dangers of the practice and the harm it causes to women.

The US advised member states to receive women who are learning from their countries to avoid FGM. The UN Member states were advised to offer refuge to such women. FGM has been criminalized in many countries especially the western countries like Britain, Canada, and the US among others. In 1996, a federal law was instituted in the US criminalizing FGM8. There is a criminal code in Canada that prohibits the practice of terming it as a criminal offense. In 1989, the WHO instituted a regional committee aimed at eradicating FGM in Africa where the practice was prevalent.

The committee advised the governments to work on measures to eradicate FGM. UNICEF had in 1980 begun the anti-FGM movement that resolves to create awareness to people about the dangers of FGM. Countries like Eritrea declared in 2007 that FGM is illegal and shall not be tolerated in the country. Egypt is not left behind; it is also banning FGM and laws are being worked on to declare FGM illegal and inhuman. The political unrest in Somalia and Sudan still makes it hard to enforce the law against FGM. This leaves FGM as legal practice in these two countries. According to women and international, the US enacted a law in 1995 banning FGM.

Female genital mutilation is common in Africa and the Middle East especially in countries dominated by Muslims. In 1979 WHO organized a seminar in Khartoum with the object to address the extent to which some traditional practices are detrimental to the lives of women and girls. This seminar was followed by another one staged in Dakar which was organized by women and they found that education about FGM would help eradicate it.


As noted by W.H.O, female genital mutilation is a serious health problem and needs to be solved before it gets too far. Education programs on FGM would help eradicate the practice. Societies need to be taught about the dangers of practicing FGM7. The practitioners also need to be taught of the danger they expose their children to. More awareness programs ought to be held to make sense in the minds of people concerning FGM. United Nations and its agencies like WHO should look for Means of eradicating FGM in countries like Somalia and Sudan with political unrest.


FGM is an issue of global interest. The international community and other organizations now focus their interest on ways to eradicate FGM. Religious believes, cultural believes, psychosexual believes, and seeking aesthetic value are the main causes of FGM. Various states, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations are on the vanguard to eliminate the practice of FGM in the global society.


Denver journal of international law and policy. 2000. Female genital Mutilation: Discussion of international human rights instruments, cultural sovereignty and dominance theory. Stamford: cengage learning. Web.

Farlex. 2010. Farlex: female genital mutilation. London: Helicon publishing. Web.

Lightfoot, Klein H. 1989. The sexual adjustment of genitally circumcised and Infibulated Females in the Sudan. J Sex Res, 26:375-392.

Muslim Women’s League. 2010. Position paper on Female Genital Mutilation/Female Circumcision. Web.

Pieters and Lowenfel. 1977. Infibulations in the horn of Africa. N Y State Med J: 729-731.

Robinett, Patricia. 2006. The rape of innocence: One woman’s story of female genital Mutilation in the USA. N.P: Aesculapius Press

Mary, Jane D. 2003. Freedom house: Oman. Washington DC: Freedom house, Inc. Web.

Womenaid international. 1997. Female genital mutilation: governments respond, London: white hall court. Web.

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