, Volume 23, Issue 10, pp 1082-1086
Date: 26 Nov 1999

Female Genital Mutilation: A Global Bug That Should Not Cross the Millennium Bridge

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Abstract.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been practiced worldwide, clothed under the tradocultural term “circumcision.” Indications for its practice include ensuring virginity, securing fertility, securing the economic and social future of daughters, preventing the clitoris from growing long like the penis, and purely as a “tradition.” Outlawed only in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Belgium, no law forbids it in most other countries. Classified into four identified types, the current perpetrators are mainly quacks, but trained medical personnel still connive at and encourage FGM. Early complications include hemorrhage, urinary tract infection, septicemia, and tetanus. Late complications include infertility, apareunia, clitoral neuromas, and vesicovaginal fistula. Reasons for the ritual persisting include fear that legislation would force it underground and it will be performed in unsterile conditions, belief that it is racist to speak out against FGM, “tolerance” by health professionals, continued use of the term “female circumcision,” lack of awareness of the culture of immigrants by the physicians in areas where FGM is not culturally practiced, and sporadic or uncommitted eradication efforts. We believe there is no reason for the continued practice of FGM. It should incur global abolition, the same way slave trade or Victorian chastity belts have done. We advocate that in medical communications the term “female genital mutilation” be used in place of “female circumcision.” World leaders should include unacceptable cultural practices such as FGM in the “world summit” agenda. The year 1999 should be declared the year for global eradication of FGM.