Female genital mutilation is child abuse — and we’re not doing enough to stop it

Female genital mutilation is one of the most horrific abuses that can be perpetrated on a young girl. It involves the excision of the clitoris, cutting of the labia and, in its most extreme form, sewing the vaginal lips shut.

It has no medical benefits, and can lead to severe infection, urinary incontinence, complications in childbirth, death and — in all cases — extreme and unimaginable pain. All in the name of “purity”, of making a girl suitable for marriage by removing her ability to feel pleasure during sex.

One of the most depressing things about FGM is that often it is women who have it done to their daughters. Generation to generation, they perpetrate a cycle of abuse because they believe it is required by their culture or faith.

The experience of one victim, recounted to the Toronto Star, is sadly typical. Yasmin Mumed was six years old when her grandmother took her to be cut in her Ethiopian village. Women held Mumed down as she struggled. “I just remember screaming … the whole floor was just blood.” Then after the cutting, came a celebration, neighbours bringing treats. “I felt kind of happy after … I felt I was at this different stage of my life.”

Only later in life, as a new Canadian, did Mumed realize that what had been done to her was a violation of her most basic rights — and her sexuality. “It’s like my whole life had been kind of a lie … I just felt like I wasn’t woman enough or I wasn’t whole. Like I wasn’t normal.”

Mumed’s story is far from unique. According to a 2015 email from Global Affairs Canada to a consular official in Kenya, the department believes “it is possible that a few thousand Canadian girls are at risk, some of whom will be taken overseas for the procedure.”

South of the border, CNN reports that “since 1990, the estimated number of girls and women in the U.S. who have undergone or are at risk of the practice has more than tripled. The increase is due to rapid growth in the number of immigrants from countries where risk of FGM is greatest.” Just this month, a doctor in Michigan was charged with performing genital mutilation on patients in her clinic — two of them as young as seven years old.

You would think that in light of these facts, the Canadian government — which devotes considerable resources to protecting women and girls — would work to combat this kind of child abuse. You would think that a prime minister who is a self-avowed feminist would get involved — and that public education would be key to that effort.

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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