The fight against the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is hitting a snag, with the revelation that more than 18 per cent of all cases are performed by health care providers. According to a statement signed by the Amref Health Africa Country Director, Dr Festus Ilako, said as the world marked the International Day against FGM on Friday, that the trend towards medicalisation is increasing which constitutes a great threat to leaving behind of the practice.

“While communities may justify it on various cultural and social grounds, it is harmful medically, is a violation of rights and is illegal in many countries. It is for this reason that Amref Health Africa condemns it and calls upon governments and partners to increase efforts to eliminate it,” Dr Ilako said in the statement. The International Day against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as Female Genital Cutting, has been designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the dangers of the practice. FGM is the intentional invasive injuring of the female genitalia for nonmedical reasons.

It is a painful damaging of the genitals aimed at subduing women, an extreme form of discrimination against women that reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. It has been recognised as a severe violation of the rights of women and girls. FGM happens mainly in Africa (in 28 countries) and in a few countries in the Middle East. It has also been practised on a small scale in South-East Asia and among certain ethnic groups in Central and South America, as well as among immigrants in Europe.

It is estimated that 130 million women and girls have been affected which causes severe pain and can result in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and death. Some forms necessitate surgery later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth. In some communities, repeated FGM, sometimes with stitching is done following childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing both immediate and long-term risks.

The practice is still widespread in spite of a global commitment following the 2002 UN Special Session on Children to end FGM by 2010. Dr Ilako said that Amref Health Africa this year has renewed its commitment to working hand in hand with governments, development partners and civil society organisations to explore innovative ways of engaging the communities to accelerate the abandonment of FGM and to inform programming in working with communities.

Other commitments include working hand in hand with relevant bodies and institutions to build skills of frontline health workers in dealing with the effects of FGM, mobilising health workers against medicalisation of FGM and increase health education and health promotion among girls and women.

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