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female genital mutilation & cutting

Harriet Maler, Vice President of ICJW's Swedish affiliate JKK Jewish Women’s Club in
Stockholm, has researched the issue of Female Genital Mutilation & Cutting and current campaigns against it.

One topic mentioned briefly at our executive meeting in London was Female Genital
Mutilation/ Cutting, formerly wrongly called female circumcision. This harmful tradition has
been discussed before in ICJW and Mary Liling pointed out that she had brought it to UN
several years ago.

FGM/C is an old tradition in certain countries, it may date from pharaonic times and was
practiced mainly in western, eastern and north-eastern Africa but also parts of Asia. It still
remains as a custom and right now 200million women worldwide have undergone FGM/C.
More than 3million girls are at risk every year. It can be performed on very young girls, but
most often on girls shortly before puberty.

There are several forms of FGM/C .WHO distinguishes four different types: 1/ Cutting of
the prepuce or the glans of clitoris.2/ Excision of the labia with or without cutting of the
clitoris. 3/ Narrowing of the vaginal orifice suturing the labia with or without excision of the
clitoris and 4/ other different kinds of mutilation of the genital organs. None of these is of
any benefit to the girl/woman nor are they medically motivated. On the contrary will the
girl’s genital organs be damaged for all future. 

The procedure is always very painful and shocking to the girl so she will suffer both physically and psychically for a long time, perhaps all her life from it. By removing the clitoris and perhaps narrowing the vaginal orifice coitus is made painful for the woman and without pleasure for her partner. FGM/C has formerly been called female circumcision, but that is a false and misleading term. It has nothing to do with male circumcision. 

FGM/C is often performed by older women, who have no medical training at all. Apart from the pain (the girl is not given any pain-killer) the incision very often causes extensive bleeding and/or severe infections. Many years after the incision it causes extra pain at menstruation and furthermore difficult and dangerous childbirths with complications for both mother and child. Sometimes health-care providers make the incisions, believing that they can make it in sterile conditions and cause less harm.

This will give a false impression that FGM/C will seem legalized, which is utterly wrong.
Opposition against the practice started in the beginning of the 20th century, when both
medical doctors in Egypt and missionaries in Kenya protested independently of one another.
In 1993 the Un General Assembly included FGM in Resolution 487104 ,the Declaration on
Elimination.

Over the last few months there has been an enormous and worldwide focus on sexual harassment and violence against women through the #MeToo-campaign. From my point of view FGM/C is one of the worst forms of violence against women, often young girls. I know that ICJW has objected to it forcefully. And in 1997 WHO together with UNICEF and UNFPA issued a joint statement against FGM/C. Research has shown that it can be eliminated rapidly, if there is a mutual agreement to do so. But it is time to put the subject again on the agenda in UN, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO again so that everybody gets aware that it is still practised in several countries and that it with the current migration can be encountered everywhere.

Stockholm, Sweden 3/12 2017
Harriet Maler,
JKK Vice President