The Initiative For Equal Rights

Female / Intersex Genital Mutilation: A Dire Violation of Human Rights

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia. It is typically carried out on girls between infancy and the age of 15, but adult women may also undergo the procedure.

Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is the harmful, involuntary, unnecessary surgery carried out on the genitals of intersex newborns, infants and children for cosmetic, cultural or religious reasons. Although IGM is common, it is hardly spoken about because accurate verifiable numbers are hard to come by due to the unnecessary secrecy around intersex conditions. IGM is conducted in the bid to “cure” intersex persons and to forcefully fit them into the binary notion of male or female. This irreversible non-consensual cutting is usually ignored and enforced even though intersex persons suffer several complications afterwards. Even in women’s rights and the conversation around genital mutilation, Intersex Genital Mutilation is hardly spoken about thus the framing as FGM.

The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 140 million girls and women globally have undergone FGM; more than 3 million girls in Africa alone are at risk of undergoing this practise every year and in Nigeria, 25% of women and girls aged 15-49 have undergone some form of genital mutilation.  The major type of female genital mutilation carried out on women is clitoridectomy, a procedure in which the clitoris is partially or completely removed. The clitoris is the most sensitive erogenous zone of a woman and the main source of her sexual pleasure. FGM is, therefore, an attempt of the patriarchy to control the sexuality of women.

FGM has immediate and long-term consequences that threaten the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls. Immediate complications include severe pain, infections, genital swelling, excessive bleeding (which can be severe enough to cause death), urinary retention and pain passing urine.

Long-term consequences include childbirth complications, anaemia, the formation of keloids at the site of cutting, damage to the urethra, painful sexual intercourse, sexual dysfunction such as an absence of orgasms. It also leads to an increased risk of HIV transmission, and mental health problems.

IGM comes with the risk of wrongfully assigning the sex of a child too young to declare their gender identity. This surgery could lead to health complications such as the case of an intersex person who had to go on dialysis after a careless surgery. There could be lasting pain, lack of sexual sensation, scarring, removal of gonads leading to sterilization and life-long hormone treatments, as well as psychological trauma for survivors.

Today, we mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, not only to protect girls and intersex persons who are currently at risk but to also ensure that those yet to be born will be free from the dangers of the practice.

We are therefore reaffirming that FGM/IGM is a violation of women and people’s rights, that intersex persons do not deserve the shame and stigma associated with their identity, and that women and intersex persons deserve rights to health, life and physical integrity, to non-discrimination, and to be free from cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.

#EndFGMtoday #EndIGMtoday #ZerotolerancetoFGM/IGM

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