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FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION-EFFECTS ON WOMEN AND YOUNG GIRLS
1.1 Background of the study
There are not many studies and writings on female genital mutilation (FGM) on an international level and in Africa as a whole because of the sensitivity of the topic. The little information can be obtained easily via the internet and books for those who can read, write, and have access to computers. Nevertheless, in the African countries where the practice is predominant, especially in the remote areas, it is difficult for people to access the information. This is because people are irritated of the practice and do not have the necessary resources, for instance enough money to buy the necessary tools to access the information they need due to poverty. However, not large numbers of people are supporting the practice in those regions where the practice is going on because it is part of their tradition that every member of the society is required to practice.
Momoh (2005, 5) states that female genital mutilation is one of the old practices that is found among the Hittites, Ethiopians and Egyptians. She adds that in ancient Egypt traces of infibulations are still found on the Egyptian mummies. She further argues that in the 19th century FGM was practiced by gynecologists in the UK and USA to cure from insanity and masturbation. Momoh (2005, 1) continues that in societies that practice female genital mutilation different factors of culture are present that support the
continuation. According to her research, she mentions certain beliefs, custom rituals, behavioral norms, social hierarchies and religions as some of the factors that encourage the continuation of the practice. She adds that culture is learnt and children learn it from adults. Haralambos and Holborn (2000, 790) define culture as a way of life for its members, a gathering of routines and ideas that are shared and conveyed to further generations.
1.2 Statement of the problem
That the dilemma of female genital mutilation is not anymore a matter for Africans only nevertheless, it has taken a turn and is spreading greatly in other parts of the world due to immigration. FGM is undoubtedly a cultural issue and something that holds the society together.
In 2004 Human Right association had a project in Finland known as “kokonainen” (whole woman), which was aimed at social and health care professionals. The project`s main idea was to recommend ways to social and health care personnel on how to go on when involved with cases of FGM. The aim of the project was to prevent FGM and promote good care of women and girls who have gone through FGM in the past (Finnish league for human rights 2004).
The first research in Finland was by Mölsä (2004), who is a Somalian born doctor, tackling issues on immigrants that come from countries where FGM is still goes on to be practiced. Compared to her first research on FGM, in 1994 there is a definite change. During the ten years, these people supported FGM practice, however, their point of view about the practice has changed and now none of the interviewees support the pharaonic, the most severe form of mutilation. However, they were uncertain about the other issues concerning FGM. Mölsä also encountered difficulties when conducting the research. The main problem was to find enough people to be interviewed due to the fact that this was a sensitive issue and sexual matters were not discussed especially between male and females in other societies like the African (Ihmisoikeusliitto ry 2004,5)
Research done by Tiilikainen (2004), focusing on the public health nurses in Helsinki, indicated difficulties when speaking about FGM. Lack of knowledge on the issue of FGM, lack of materials and instructions. No matter how difficult it is for the health care professionals to talk about FGM, it needs to be dealt with professionally (Ihmisoikeusliitto ry 2004, 5). From the research, it can be seen that the issues of FGM are also found in Finland.
1.3 Purpose of the study
The purpose of this research is to investigate the issue of female genital mutilation in Africa, as one of the biggest social problems that is affecting the majority of women and young girls. Female genital mutilation is recognized both internationally and locally to be an enduring tradition which is difficult to overcome because it violates the rights of women and young girls. The fact that those letting their children to undergo the procedure they do not know if they are violating the rights of the children because of the high level of illiteracy involved.
1.4 Objectives of the study
The aim of this research paper is to introduce female genital mutilation to the field of social work and social services as one of the social problems that affects women and young girls who come from the developing countries. The problem has spread to other European countries as the immigrants carry it along with them as part of their culture. For this reason, the study aims to make the professionals of community development work aware of female genital mutilation effects, and deal with multicultural issues that are affecting children and families. In addition, professionals need to be ready to intervene at any time because the practice violates the human rights of women and girls in the context of child protection and women’s rights.
Objectives of the research include flashbacks from the practice of female genital mutilation. How the procedure is carried in their communities? Complications involved before and after undergoing the practice. How culture is influencing the continuation of the practice? The religious views, what different religious sects think of the practice and what they have done to stop it? What has been done to help the girls and women who are forced to undergo the procedure, and finally how the practice violates the rights of women and children?
1.5 Research questions
Female genital mutilation is one of the most dangerous practices that cause torture and death among those who undergo the procedure. Without much knowledge for those practicing female genital mutilation, meaning the practitioners of the practice and those, undergoing the practice. The girls and women do not know much about the human rights. On the one hand, the ones who do not practice FGM tend to identify it as violating the human rights of women and young girls in many ways. While on the other hand, those who do practice female genital mutilation do not see it as violating the rights of women and girls but rather as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, and as a part of their tradition that is followed. The researcher aims to find answers to the following questions by interviewing four women and reviewing previous literature on the topic.
1. What kinds of experiences do women have of the female genital mutilation?
2. What kinds of reasons are there to practice female genital mutilation?
3. How female genital mutilation violates the rights of women and children?
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