Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’

In this world, women and men have fought for centuries to understand one another. Our societies and governments will always have issues and will always foster different views of what is valued. However, we are all people above everything else. We all deserve the right to live the life we were given without forcefulness toward action and violence to which there is no choice to deny participation. The act of Female Genital Mutilation is an act in which women of our world have no choice but to be subjected to the trauma of having their own bodies violated. The act of female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights and is discrimination against women. Actively working to bring awareness of this issue and taking steps to end this violation is the highly advocated purpose of this research.

            Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is carrying out a procedure in which health care providers intentionally alter or permanently injure a female’s genital organs. The procedure is always performed on girls between the ages of infancy and fifteen years old. It is estimated that one hundred to one hundred and forty million women and young girls throughout the world are currently living with these devastating consequences and approximately two million undergo FGM each year. In Africa alone, it is estimated that ninety-two million girls from age ten are subjected to FGM. Female Genital Mutilation is classified into four major types of procedures which include clitoridectomy, excision, infibulations and other harmful methods like scraping and cauterizing the female genital area. This practice has been constantly persisted for years in more than twenty-five African countries, parts of Asia and the Middle East, and in numerous African immigrant communities living in industrialized nations. Many international organizations have been at work to research and prevent FGM and “change against FGM has already been underway for more than a century in some areas of the world, a clear challenge to any deterministic view of culture.”

Socio-cultural dynamics and justifications for performing these torturous surgeries are based upon societal tradition, religion, and notions of women’s sexuality. Efforts to promote change in female genital mutilation practices originated in the late nineteenth century, among the indigenous women’s organizations, religious leaders, and missionaries in Africa. Sociological researchers say that when understanding the cultural meaning of FMG, symbolic vitality and social consequences for marriagability were two major ideals.  In other studies, it was found that in several cultures female circumcision is a gender identity marker, “making a woman more fully female by cutting off her ‘male parts.’” Furthermore, examination of these cultures’ thoughts and values on gender identity and femininity point to the main ideals of what being female means and the different meanings of beauty and sensuality. Female Genital Mutilation is believed to make one fully female and fulfill their femininity.

“Femininity ideals are reinforced by aesthetic values. Tissue removal often eliminates what are thought of as masculine parts, or in the case of infibulation achieves smoothness considered beautiful. Where infibulation is the established practice, the uninfibulated state can seem repulsive to women themselves and/or to their sex partners. The infibulated state also is reinforced by symbolic values, such as ‘enclosure’ of body, to be ready for future socially-approved reproduction.”

Cultures that perform mostly infibulation have the main justification that it is an act in preserving a woman’s virginity. Virginity before marriage is a highly respected goal among the people of these countries and especially Muslims. Being a virgin symbolizes that the woman has obeyed the code of Judeo-Christian-Islamic teachings and that her moral strictures are intact. Therefore, these men and women believe that infibulation is necessary and respectable because by creating a barrier to penetration or by reducing sensitivity, this reduces a girl’s interest in sex. With this reputation the woman is also believed to be protecting her morality and preserving her family honor. Although the beliefs of these people and their societies should be respected, we must continue to stress that mutilation practices are aimed at depriving women of their sexuality and that these issues are due to male dominance over these women.

The alarming part of this argument from a scientific and medical perspective is that there are absolutely no health benefits to these women. There is no reason for these surgical procedures other than the traditional beliefs of how women should act, and the women have no choice in the matter. Most importantly, the procedure is extremely painful and traumatic, it is removal of healthy, normal genital tissue, which therefore interferes with natural functioning of the female’s body and it causes several immediate and long term health consequences. These women suffer a wide range of damaging consequences which include: psychological trauma, hemorrhage, HIV infection, complications during child birth and death. Furthermore, “babies born to women who have undergone female genital mutilation suffer a higher rate of neonatal death compared with babies born to women who have not undergone the procedure. In stillbirth or spontaneous abortion and in a further twenty-five percent the newborn has a low birth weight or serious infection, both of which are associated with an increased risk of prenatal death” (W.H.O).

In looking at this practice as a whole, including all the cultural reasoning, it is still an infringement upon human rights. Women’s health and human rights advocates have broadened the debate over female genital mutilation to include considerations of power and women’s subordination- considerations that preclude women and children from knowing and exercising their rights to health, bodily integrity, and freedom from violence. It reinforces inequality and discrimination that has become a united issue paralleled through several countries. These women do not know the severity of the larger issues at hand because they have always been socialized and raised to believe that their place in this world, in their society, is at the expense of a man. More urgent attention should be paid to women’s inequality of opportunity and power, as well as the conditions of war, famine, high rates of disease and infant and child mortality, and lack of educational opportunities. Violence against women in these countries and around the world has become commonplace, murder masked as “honor killings” in the Middle East, human trafficking run like a business between governments, and female genital mutilation masked as a coming-of-age ritual to become a woman; this silent war is outrageous. We must work to create more awareness of these issues and come to an agreement that our brothers and sisters in every country, and every society deserve the same rights that allow them human dignity and preservation of life.

If there has been constant research and studies of this issue for hundreds of years, what is being done right now? How much progress has been made regarding the issue since investigation was started? Since an international women’s rights movement has gained strength in recent years, support for efforts to stop violence against women has made enormous progress. There has been more effort to pressure governments and law-makers to pass protective laws in their countries. “In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has adopted several conventions aimed specifically at protecting women and children. Last year, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set up and for the first time in history legally designated rape as a war crime” (Stencel 356). The conviction that female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights and discrimination has made substantial progress in raising awareness. Research efforts says the main challenge is to determine how to get governmental and nongovernmental organizations to determine how the declaration of human right and human dignity can be agreed upon and applied in the local context of these countries. Community participation, strength and understanding are the basic theories needed to start more severe prevention. Collaboration of governments and world leaders like the United Nations must come to an understanding and theory about how human life is fostered and treated in all communities, because we must keep moving forward from where we are now. Human rights activism and women’s rights movements and awareness have conquered success, but there is much more work that needs to be done.

            All people of the world have different values, thoughts and opinions. We all live within separate societies and our socialization from birth varies from household to household. Yet, the one thing we have in common is that we are women and we are men above everything else. Personhood comes first, and extreme measures must be taken to preserve the rights we all deserve without turmoil, trauma, war or despair. Female Genital Mutilation is but one issue in this world, but that does not mean we can push it aside and wait to get around to it. Once people become aware of this issue they must be obligated to move forward and search for agreements and disagreements to call for awareness and a resolution to stop violence against women, discrimination, subordination, and powerlessness of a person.

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