Start the conversation to end female genital mutilation

Abigail Carlin, Columnist

The subject of female mutilation is often one had behind closed doors, as the matter is incredibly devastating and reflects cultural values significantly different than our own. However, visibility regarding those who wish to see the practice come to an end is increasing, especially in Australia.

Female genital mutilation is completely unnecessary from a medical standpoint, as it is a brutal procedure that leaves the patient at risk for bleeding, infections, shock, chronic pain, longtime reproductive issues and death. The procedure is often performed on women and girls at a young age, and in some cases, even during infancy. Female mutilation can be performed in a number of ways, including but not limited to total or partial removal of the external female genitalia (such as sewing the labia majora or injuring or removing the clitoris).

Many global efforts have attempted to end practices, such as the mutilation of female genitalia, that challenge female bodily and physical autonomy. Along similar lines as child sex trafficking and child brides, there are various cultural and religious “justifications” for these practices, but they are becoming increasingly inexcusable by the very communities that have complied with the practice for generations. Survivors are stepping forward to share their story, as well as inform the public about how these unforgivable acts happen more often than anyone could possibly imagine.

Melissa Davey from The Guardian analyzed the latest data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in her article, “Female genital mutilation: 53,000 Australians have had the procedure, report estimates.” By the title, the reader can see the figure of 53,000 women and girls, which equates to “a rate of 4.3 per 1,000 women and girls in Australia” or “0.4 percent of Australia’s overall female population.” These figures surprised me, in my ignorance, as I did not believe that a practice so seemingly barbaric and anti-woman happened in a developed country, but that is just it.

Female mutilation is a harrowing reminder of how certain populations structure their society and determine the worth of a given body. Even in the United States, the female body is still heavily scrutinized, regulated and threatened. “One in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college,” according to The National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Why do these patterns keep popping up?

In the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, victims of sexual assault and harassment attempt to reclaim what was lost as well as seek retribution and visibility for other victims. That is their right, as Americans, to protest unjust treatment of bodies (not just female bodies). When I hear criticisms of these movements, my mind drifts to the protests and demonstrations that challenge the practice of female genitalia. What makes their strife different than that of fellow woman, regardless of socioeconomic status, creed, ethnicity or geographic location?

When reflecting on the global treatment of women, the world has a lot to catch up on. No country is perfect, and no specific country or population is to blame, either. If the great pendulum is to swing in favor of women and young girls’ liberation from the systems that seek to oppress them, the world needs more people willing to help alleviate the cultural and systematic burdens of female oppression.

Abigail Carlin is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].