Female Genital Mutilation must end!

Today (February 6) is being observed as International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on the theme “Partnership with men and boys to transform social and gender norms to end FGM”.

To commemorate the day, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has made a passionate appeal to all and sundry to help end the menace, which has been with humankind for more than thousand years, with the following quote: “I call on men and boys everywhere to join me in speaking out and stepping forward to end female genital mutila­tion, for the benefit of all.”

It is recalled that in 2012, the UN General Assembly designated February 6 as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, to amplify and direct efforts at the elimination of the practice.

The United Nations strives for the full eradication of FGM by 2030 in line with the spirit of Sustainable Development Goal 5, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls against all forms of harmful practices, such as early child marriage, forced marriage and FGM.

The FGM involves the alter­ation and usually result in the injury of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. The practice is widespread and it is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 200 million girls and women alive today had undergone FGM in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where it is practised.

In some cultures, FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. These include controlling her sexuality to promote premarital virginity and marital fidelity.

But, science has no place for this unacceptable age-long cultural practices. Indeed, there is no evidence in the medical literature to show that FGM has any health benefits.

Rather, it is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, FGM is very harmful to girls and women in many ways as it involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, which interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

Some of the immediate com­plications of FGM as articulat­ed in literature, include severe pain, excessive bleeding (haem­orrhage), genital tissue swelling, fever tetanus infections, urinary problems, wound healing prob­lems, injury surrounding genital tissue, shock and death.

The long term complication of FGM are urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections), vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections); menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.); scar tissue and keloid, sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.).

Others are increased risk of child­birth complications (difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, caesarean section, need to resuscitate the baby) and newborn deaths.

It is estimated that treatment of the health complications of FGM cost health systems US$ 1.4 billion per year, and the amount is expected to rise unless urgent action is taken towards its abandonment.

We, at Ghanaian Times are very alarmed at these startling effects of FGM, complications and cost to our already distressed health system, and we join the campaign for the aboli­tion of the inhumane practice.

We recall that in 2008, the World Health Assembly passed resolution WHA61.16 on the elimination of FGM, emphasizing the need for concerted action in all sectors: health, education, finance, justice and wom­en’s affairs.

Consequently, we add our voice to this clarion call to all and sundry to join forces towards the elimination of the canker, to restore the right, dignity and pride of womanhood.

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