Khadija Gbla, the woman in the above image, fell victim to Female Genital Mutilation at a tender age of nine years, after being deceived by her own mother who claimed that they were headed to a vacation. Years later and she is still scarred by the event. “I don’t know how one gets over that. I don’t think anyone does. I’m really frank in saying, I don’t think I’ve unpacked a quarter of the issues surrounding FGM.” She is aggrieved by the fact that she will never be able to experience proper sexual satisfaction, which makes her feel insufficient as a woman. Prior to the miraculous birth of her child, Khadija was constantly ridiculed, many claiming that she was practically infertile. She later faced several challenges throughout her pregnancy due to the lack of medical practitioners capable of handling women with a history of FGM. Vaginal birth was not ideal as a result of her internal wounds, leaving only the option of a cesarean delivery. Due to her struggle, she advocates vigorously against Female Genital Mutilation.
According to the World Health Organization, Khadija is one out of 120-140 million women who have been exposed to FGM. A further three million girls are at risk of being subject to the same fate every year. Female Genital Mutilation, also referred to as female circumcision, is the altering or injury of the female genital organs through cutting, scraping, burning, piercing and several other harmful procedures. There are three main types of Female Genital Mutilation:
1. Infibulation: reduction of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and re-positioning the labia.
2. Excision – removing part or all of the clitoris and lips that surround the vagina, with or without removal of the larger outer lips.
3. Clitoridectomy – removing part or all of the clitoris.
The effects of such brutality include intense pain, wound infections, as well as blood-borne viruses such as HIV. Victims also experience inability to urinate, abnormal periods, damage to the reproductive system and at times death.
The International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM was first venerated by the UN on February 6, 2003. Since then, it has been a UN sponsored awareness day which takes place on the 6th of February each year. The affair aims to provide for several activities and events to promote the UN’s campaign to raise knowledge, understanding and educate people against Female Genital Mutilation. This includes photo essays and discussions on creating legislation to curb FGM. Other activities involve open forums that include FGM survivors who are invited to share their personal experiences.
Further awareness still needs to be made in relation to FGM, particularly throughout areas in Africa and the Middle East. The world would be safer, healthier, and better-off when everyone including women and girls are able to live with dignity and without fear of gender-based violence. We must declare that there is no place in the civilized world for this injurious practice.