Silent tragedy 2
February 17, 2021
According to the United Nations, covid pandemic has disproportionately affected girls and women, predicting that an additional two million girls worldwide are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM). Now the figure stands at 70 million.
According to the Unided Nations, in 2020 the covid-19 pandemic has negatively and disproportionately affected girls and women, resulting in a “shadow pandemic” disrupting the elimination of all harmful practices including, female genital mutilation (FGM).
The UN says that covid pandemic increased the risk of FGM, predicting that an additional two million girls worldwide will be subjected to that practice. In 2018, it was estimated by the UN Population Fund that globally 68 million girls were at risk; now the figure stands at 70 million.
Female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women. Girls and children who undergo female genital mutilation face short-term complications such as severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections, and difficulty in passing urine, as well as long-term consequences for their sexual and reproductive health and mental health.
The UN says that, although primarily concentrated in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, FGM is now a universal problem and is also practiced in some countries in Asia and Latin America. Female genital mutilation continues to persist amongst immigrant populations living in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. FGM, which many societies consider a cultural tradition, were worsened by lockdowns and school closures, and can result in long-term health and psychological problems for girls.
“I will never do that to my daughters.”, said Eman (Egypt – 17 years old). The UN explained that Eman learned about female genital mutilation when her mother joined a community education programme and brought her lessons home. Together, they discovered that not only is thereno religious requirement for the practice, but that it is harmful for the medical and psycho-social health of women, their communities, and their children. Now Eman is committed to sharing the knowledge with her friends.
“Some years back,” Tabitha (Kenya – 15 years old) told, “my parents talked to me about female genital mutilation and the harmful effects, and I accepted, and I said that there is no way that I will be cut. When the cutting season (was) reached, the community members told me that I have to be cut. I refused and I told them that cutting is not for the girl child and it is not in the Bible.”
Tabitha and her family are devout Christians who participate in programmes to learn about the harmful realities of female genital mutilation. Despite enormous pressure from their community, they believe that there is no religious requirement for this practice and have supported Tabitha’s participation in alternative rites of passage. Tabitha’s educational peer group has dwindled significantly as other girls have undergone female genital mutilation, married, and left school.