Warning: Female Genital Mutilation is a horrifying but not very well known practice. This article contains a concise definition of what FGM is. Parental guidance is advised.
There are countless barbaric practices alive and well across the globe. We hear a great deal about human trafficking, the drug trade, and various forms of abuse suffered by populations around the world. One of the most brutal, sadistic, and widespread is the act of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Close to 125 million women suffer from the effects of FGM, equivalent to almost 40% of the U.S. population! The numbers are simply staggering, but the practice of FGM is still primarily hidden in the shadows. Thankfully, there may be a shift happening in the countries that practice FGM.
Genital mutilation has been around since Graeco-Roman Egypt, eventually spreading into 27 African countries, and eventually into the Middle East and Asia. The procedure involves the removing of some or all of the external female genitalia. Typically this means the removal of the clitoris and the inner labia. In the most extreme cases, called infibulation, the outer labia is removed as well, and the vulva is closed, leaving only a few millimeters to allow for menstruation and urination. The myriad complications can range from lack of feeling due to damaged nerves, to infection, and even death.
Organizations like the World Health Organization and the United Nations have been working to eradicate this practice for years, but without the backing of the countries practicing it, progress has been slow. Even in Egypt, which outlawed the practice in 2008, 91% of married women are thought to be victims of FGM. However, the battle against this brutality just took a huge stride forward.
On May 5th the Nigerian government passed a bill to outlaw FGM, and on June 2nd it was signed into law by outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan. The legislation (you can read an older version of the bill here, as they have not published the new one) not only outlaws genital mutilation, but more clearly defines rape and spousal abuse, and strengthens the power of the judicial system when enforcing the laws. In March, President Jonathan lost his bid for reelection, so he is making his final days count by ensuring that protections for women are passed despite very passionate disapproval from certain sections of Nigeria.
While it will take years to see how effective the bill is in preventing FGM, the precedent set by President Jonathan could be a giant stepping stone in passing similar laws in other nations. With the tides turning so strongly against this awful practice, we may see a long-awaited end to female genital mutilation in the next few decades.Whizzco