The pandemic is complicating the possibility of eradicating female genital mutilation by 2030, one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, this practice is increasing. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that could be increased by two million, which would mean that in 2030 there would be 70 million more cases of girls and adolescents subjected to this traditional practice, which not only violates their basic rights, but can also put their lives at risk and has serious negative repercussions on their health and well-being.
In cases of humanitarian emergencies and times of crisis, such as the current one, risks increase, as it is more difficult to access health services and schools, an environment that protects girls. To all this, we must also add the increase in forced marriages as a way to alleviate the lack of livelihoods. “They have the belief that you have to mutilate yourself to be able to get married. As families have fewer economic resources to get ahead, the cases of early unions increase,” confirms Alba Cuadra, from International PLANl.
A practice that threatens health and integrity
Genital mutilation is a traditional practice, whose justification varies by communityyes It is considered as a rite of passage for girls and is usually given a religious justification, although neither Islam nor Christianity support it. In some communities, it is practiced to control the sexuality of girls, to ensure their marriage, to safeguard family honor, or to have inheritance rights.
But whatever the reason used, genital mutilation radically conditions the lives of women. This practice is still carried out in about 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Some 200 million have already suffered from it and it is even still practiced in some of the countries that have officially banned it, such as Ethiopia. In addition, these genital mutilations tend to be performed when girls are just babies. It is estimated that more than 3 million girls and adolescents are at risk of being genitally mutilated each year, not only in their communities, but even in health centers, where an increase in these practices has been detected.
and this practice will mark your whole life, physically and psychologically, and even puts it at risk. The consequences are numerous: infections, chronic pain, bleeding, infertility, problems during sexual intercourse and childbirth. Irene Tato, president of Amref Spain, warns: “The tragedy is that, knowing that it is a prohibited practice, in certain countries they are advancing the age. They prevent them from being the ones who are aware that the practice is illegal and then they don’t wait until they are 10 or 12 years old, as could happen before. Right now it’s babies who are suffering from “the cut,” which is what the cut is called.”
More international efforts are needed
Emigration does not imply that some families banish the practice, since they usually take advantage of a travel to the country of origin to subject the girl or adolescent to genital mutilation. Nor is it a problem unrelated to the health services of the countries to which they have emigrated. In consultations, doctors have to face the pathologies derived from these mutilations and, therefore, it is essential that they know how to approach them, both physically and psychologically, without prejudice.
Despite everything, thanks to national and international efforts, and in particular by the communities themselves, today the probability of a girl being mutilated is a third less than 30 years ago. Alba Cuadra, from PLAN International draws attention to the need to allocate more funds to fight against this scourge: “Right now, in official development aid, only 11% of the budget is allocated to sexual and reproductive rights programs, where female genital mutilation is also covered”. Many more efforts are still needed to meet the target by 2030: the eradication of female genital mutilation.