Misery for countless women in regionAttacking female genital mutilation [Archives:2005/819/Health]

February 24 2005

For The Yemen Times
A growing movement to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision has been noticed lately in various parts of the world, including the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

International organizations dealing with women's rights and healthcare have expressed commitment to fight this phenomenon, which has caused miseries to females throughout the African continent and in some Arab countries including Yemen.

Genital mutilation is practiced in 28 countries in Africa and also in some regions in Yemen.

The African countries practicing female circumcision range from Somalia in the east coast and stretching westward to Senegal on the Atlantic.

The rite is believed to have originated more than 2,000 years ago in Egypt or the Horn of Africa (what is now Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia).

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 130 million women have undergone the procedure.

Although it is most often associated with Islam, it is also practiced by Christians, adherents to traditional African religions, and one Jewish sect.

Types of FGM

There are generally three different types of circumcision: clitoridectomy, the amputation of the clitoris; excision of the labia minora as well as the clitoris; and infibulation, the removal all external genitalia including the labia majora, after which the edges of the wound are stitched together, allowing for only a tiny opening.

The risk of infection and problematic childbirth are naturally greatly exacerbated by infibulation, and it is estimated that 20% to 25% of sterility cases in the Sudan have resulted from the procedure.

The prevalence of circumcision and the type of procedure vary enormously from country to country.

According to a study by Demographic and Health Survey, 93% of women in Mali and 98% in Djibouti and Somalia undergo genital cutting, whereas in Uganda and the Congo the number drops to 5%.

Clitoridectomy is the most common procedure.

Infibulation accounts for about 15% of women, with an estimated 80% to 90% of all infibulations occurring in Djibouti, Somalia, and the Sudan.

The only country where the genital mutilation is noticeably decreasing is the Central African Republic, where the practice was not widespread to begin with.