Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. In many settings, health care providers perform Female genital mutilation due to the erroneous belief that the procedure is safer when medicalized1. WHO strongly urges health professionals not to perform such procedures.
Female genital mutilation is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
Female genital mutilation, sometimes referred to as female circumcision, incorporates a number of procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs without medical necessity. It does not discriminate between ethnicity or religion. It is a 4,000 year old practice.
There are four major types of Female genital mutilation as identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO). These are:
1. Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris.
2. Excision: removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (larger outer lips).
3. Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
4. Other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, including pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program
During 2015 a Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program grant was given to the Ethnic Council of Shepparton & District.
The project was delivered in 3 parts:
- 1. An educational Workshop aimed at professionals who may come into contact with women, girls and families affected by Female genital mutilation.
- 2. A community development and education program supporting bilingual workers/volunteers to provide education in their own languages.
- 3. The use of social media and other mediums to disseminate a range of resource and materials to the target audience
We recognise that as a result of cultural and community pressures that for at least one generation, women from countries which practise female genital mutilation will be under considerable pressures to continue this practice. This is especially relevant when considering strategies for eradication of the practice and requires that particular attention be given to the issue of community education.
It is not possible to get reliable statistics on the practice of female genital mutilation in Australia. However recently some statistic based on the prevalence of the countries that families are arriving from suggest that 83,000 women and girls have been affected by female genital mutilation and live in Australia. Three (3) girls are at risk every day of being mutilated in Australia.
The effects of female genital mutilation physical, psychological, emotional, sexual and other implications of female genital mutilation and has concluded that it is damaging with persisting effects. Ongoing lifelong support is required for women and girls affected by female genital mutilation. As described in the Professional workshop we conducted in Shepparton by Khadija Gbla, “female genital mutilation is the gift that keeps on giving”.
© Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District, Inc.