BBC sitcom “Call The Midwife” was applauded by viewers for putting a spotlight on female genital mutilation (FGM). The latest episode featured a pregnant Somali woman named Nadifa who had gone through the procedure as a child.
Scenes from the BBC series about midwives in 1960s London showed how Nadifa had to endure a traumatic birth to deliver her baby. It is estimated by UNICEF that almost 200 million females globally have had to endure the procedure, which involves the partial or total removal of parts of the female genitals for non-medical reasons.
It can cause severe bleeding, pain, shock, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. It increases the risk of labour complications and new-born deaths. The procedure itself can prove fatal It also significantly lowers the feelings of pleasure experienced while love-making. A UNICEF report published in February declared that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have suffered FGM in 30 countries, mainly in Africa.
FGM is recognised internationally as a fundamental violation of womens’ and girls’ rights. Of those 30 countries, Egypt is high on the list. The percentage of women in the 15 to 49 age group to have suffered sexual mutilation is highest in Somalia, (98%), followed by Guinea, (97%), Djibouti, (91%), and Sierra Leone, (90%). Mali is next, with 89%, followed by Egypt, with 87%. Eritrea completes the high-percentage group, with 83%.
Forty-four million girls under the age of 14 have also been harmed in this way, mainly in the Gambia, (56%), followed by Mauritania, (54%), and Indonesia, (49%). In the latter around half of all girls aged under 11 have been cut
Many countries have strengthened their laws to try and crack down on the practice, and on a more local level many communities are taking a public stand against FGM says UNICEF in its February report.