world heath organization

FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

CHAIR

Santiago Mestre

CO-CHAIR

Camila de la Peña

country assignment IS NOW available 

TOPIC BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a committee belonging to the United Nations since april 7th 1948. With over 150 member states, this agency is specialized in public health and wellbeing. The organization focuses primarily on communicable diseases and non-communicable diseases such as: Ebola,  malaria, smallpox and so on. Working closely to human rights, this committee's vision is “of a world in which all people attain the highest possible level of health, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable, with measurable impact for people at country level.”

  1. Should the United Nations ban female genital mutilation?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to any and all procedures that intentionally change or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as midwives. In many settings, health care proffessionals carry out FGM due to the erred belief that the procedure is safer when medicalized as opposed to it being performed in rural conditions. While the previous claim might hold some truth, FGM procedures have no health benefits for girls and women and in fact are highly dangerous. Research shows that some effects are severe bleeding, and problems when urinating, cysts, infections, complications during childbirth, and an increased risk of newborn deaths. Nevertheless, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been “cut,” most of who are from the countries in Africa, the Middle East , or Asia, where FGM is common.

Female genital mutilation is mostly performed on young girls during infancy and before age 15, but it is also occasionally done on adult women. More than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually, espcially those who live in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, and in some countries of the Middle East and Asia. The reasons why female genital mutilations are performed vary from one region to another as well as over time, and they include a mix of sociocultural factors within families and communities. One of the most commonly cited reason is that FGM is a social convention (social norm), meaning there is social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing, as well as the need to be accepted socially and the fear of being rejected by the community. In these communities, FGM is almost universally performed and unquestioned, for FGM is considered a necessary part of raising a girl and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. FGM can also be motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behaviour. It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman's libido and therefore believed to help her resist extramarital sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed (type 3), the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage extramarital sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM. Finally, another reason is that FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine or male. Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support; local structures of power and authority, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice. 

In most societies, where FGM is practised, it is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation. The World Health Organization strongly urges health professionals not to perform such procedures. FGM is recognized by WHO as as international violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

Extra information on FGM Procedures- 

Female genital mutilation is classified into 4 major types. 

  • Type 1: Clitoridectomy: This is the partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals), and in very rare cases, only the prepuce (fold of skin surrounding the clitoris). 

  • Type 2: Excision: This is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without excision of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva ). 

  • Type 3: Infibulation: This is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy). 

  • Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area. 

No health benefits, only harm

Risks increase with increasing severity of the procedure. Immediate complications: 

  • severe pain

  • excessive bleeding (haemorrhage)

  • genital tissue swelling

  • fever

  • infections e.g., tetanus

  • urinary problems

  • wound healing problems

  • injury to surrounding genital tissue

  • shock

  • death

Long-term consequences can include:

  • urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections)

  • vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections)

  • menstrual problems (painful menstruation, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.)

  • scar tissue and keloid

  • sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.)

  • increased risk of childbirth complications (difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, caesarean section, need to resuscitate the baby, etc.) and newborn deaths

  • need for later surgeries: for example, the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening (type 3) needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth (deinfibulation)

  • psychological problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, etc.)

For Questions /  Contact us at vamunsecretarygeneral@aspv.edu.mx

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