Female genital mutilation: a call for global action.
Each year at least 2 million girls face the risk of genital mutilation, most of whom are between 2 and 8 years old. About 85-114 million females worldwide have mutilated genitalia. Most of these females reside in Africa. They encounter pain, trauma, and often, physical complications (e.g., bleeding, infections, and death). Female genital mutilation (FGM) consists of clitoridectomy (partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the labia minora) or infibulation (total removal of the clitoris, partial or total removal of the labia minora, and incisions in the labia majora). FGM is a cultural, not religious, tradition which is used to prepare girls for womanhood. Muslims, Christians, some animists, and one Jewish sect practice FGM, but none of these religions require FGM. It is used to perpetuate women's second-class status. FGM enhances the sexual pleasure of men while genitally mutilated women sense little or no sexual pleasure. This denial of sexual pleasure can have psychological effects on women. These women therefore become sexual objects and reproductive vehicles for men. The FGM practitioners vary by area and include traditional birth attendants, female laypeople, physicians and other trained health personnel, and women leaders. African women created the Inter-African Committee Against Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children in 1984, which serves as the basis for global action against FGM. African immigrants in developed countries have taken the practice of FGM with them. Women in these countries have brought FGM to the fore and are pressing for laws against it. Protection from physical and sexual abuse, such as FGM, is a child's right. Information on prevalence, physical and psychological effects, and religious requirements are needed to take action against FGM. Legal remedies include international action and national law. Each country's mass communication systems and popular culture should be engaged in spreading information about FGM and in generating discussions on FGM.