FGM is a barbaric practice which risks vulnerable lives

The custom is cloaked in the lie of attaining womanhood when in reality, it takes it away

Mariam Banemanie TraorŽ, 54, a victim of female genital mutilation who had her clitoris surgically restored three years ago, poses for a portrait in Bobo-Dioulasso, 365 kilometres west of Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou on Monday May 4, 2009. "Women deserve pleasure", she says, "and they also deserve dignity."
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It is a barbaric practice that has no roots in religion and can cause unimaginable suffering and even death in its victims. Yet female genital mutilation, or FGM, is still widely practised throughout this region and in Africa and Asia. The charity Unicef estimates 200 million women in 30 countries, including Yemen, Indonesia and the Kurdistan region of Iraq, underwent the procedure in 2016. In the Arab world, Egypt has one of the world's highest rates of genital mutilation, with an estimated nine in 10 women undergoing an operation, despite the practice being outlawed in 2008. Among them was 17-year-old Manar Moussa, who died in Cairo in 2016 when she was under anaesthesia for the surgery.

Medical experts are categorical: there are absolutely no health benefits to the practice. Nor is it a requirement in the Quran or any other holy book. Instead, a practice bound in outdated ideas of honour and chastity is endangering lives. Those who go under the knife can suffer from recurring infections, have trouble urinating, experience complications conceiving or giving birth and even bleed to death. Yet still quacks insist on carrying out the procedure and girls are forced to go under the knife from a young age in a self-perpetuating social convention to avoid being labelled unclean or dishonourable. The practice is cloaked in the lie that they are somehow celebrating the attainment of womanhood while in reality, it is taking it away from them. As The National reported, there is a growing anti-FGM movement, with non-governmental organisations and individual campaigners working tirelessly to educate towns and villages about the risks of such a needless operation. A change in law must go hand-in-hand with education and outreach campaigns to protect the most vulnerable members of society.