The practice of Female genital mutilation/cutting
(FGM/C) is in some cultures a rite of passage to womanhood associated with
ethic identity, purity, virginity and family honour. It is also a violation of human rights
and a form of sexual discrimination. The
World Health Organisation estimates 3 million girls are at risk of FGM/C
annually in countries in sub-Saharan
Africa and also Europe, USA and Australia, where migrants continue the cultural
This controversial issue, as highlighted in
recently published in Reproductive Health, has both religious
and political implications. Importantly, this study was commissioned by the
Gambian government, with the aim of using these results to help educate and
establish grounds for legislative action.
FGM/C ranges in severity from Type I, which
is partial excision, to Type III, which is total excision and stitching. The
prevalence of the different types were shown in this study to span from 66% to
7.5% respectively. The results also found that type I FGM/C presented complications in
1:5 women, the incidence increasing to 1:2 in type II and possibly as high as
2:3 in type III.
The complications associated with FGM/C
range from, most commonly, infection, scarring and haemorrhaging, to pregnancy
complications and maternal morbidity. However,
73% of Gambian women would still like to see their daughters undergo FGM/C.
This desirability of FGM/C may be due, in part, to its deep
socio-cultural roots and also a lack of knowledge of the true extent of the health
implications. This article hopes to be a tool for the Gambian government to help
remedy this and may be of significance for women and the future of FGM/C in
Our news knowledge base project Public Data Ferret reports — University of Washington/Seattle anthropologist Bettina Shell-Duncan’s newly-published study decodes female genital cutting in Senegambia.
Her team’s extensive research effort shows it’s much less about marriageability than social conventions enforced by female elders where economic scarcity fosters fealty to community networks.
Successful community-based interventions do exist, but they’re not based on the information and education health campaigns of yesteryear.