Only recently it came up in conversation and my wife did explain to me that it basically involves cutting out some external parts of the female genital organ. I was also made to understand there are alternative methods used instead of cutting. It involves dipping a piece of cloth into hot water which is then applied at intervals spanning days or even weeks to serve similar purpose to FGM but without having to cut anything. I know this is a taboo subject for some people but we need to talk about these issues to understand them better.
I've done a few bit of research since that time which seem to corroborate what she rightly told me. The World Health Organisation's website also provides some very useful information covering all aspects of the practice.
What worries me is that the intention of those who carry out the procedure is to limit sexual pleasure and in doing so aim to achieve their purpose of making their victims less likely to become promiscuous. I haven't read or come across any research that links female genitalia to sexual promiscuity. Even if their was any, individuals have a choice of how they choose to live their sexual lives but that is a topic for another day.
What really struck me and in fact spurred me into blogging about this issue is that just today (22/04/12), reports in the UK media seem to suggest there may well be over 100,000 victims of this practice in the UK. The practice is thought to be rife among African and some Asian communities.
Despite legislation and a possible 14 year jail term for anyone engaged or arrange to engage in the practice, it seems, it still hasn't deterred the practice in African communities in particular. If this practice is rife in our communities in the diaspora especially those of us living in the west whom you would expect should know better then you can imagine the scale of the problem in Nigeria.
More needs to be done to deal with the problem. Legislation is certainly a step in the right direction but from what I gather there are no Federal laws that directly prohibits the practice. Even though some states have laws to tackle FGM, a National approach would be more effective.
But laws alone are not enough, FGM like most social issues requires plenty of enlightenment and education to challenge long held beliefs and attitudes which in my view is at the heart of practices of this nature. This will require lots of persuasion, convincing and a paradigm shift in deeply rooted culture and traditions. It shouldn't be treated as a cultural issue anymore but as a public health matter.
There are no health benefits for subjecting young girls to undergo this procedure and as such more should be done to put an end to it. We can certainly do our bit through talking and educating our relatives, friends, supporting NGOs and raising awareness. It's not too late to start now otherwise we'll be storing up huge social and psychological problems for future generations.