May 18, 2024
Global Skin Excision

Global Skin Excision: An Exploring Social and Medical Issue

Introduction
Skin excision, also known as female genital mutilation or cutting, is a cultural practice that involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. It is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. Despite global efforts to eliminate the practice, millions of girls and women worldwide have experienced or are at risk of skin excision. This article aims to explore the scope and impact of skin excision across different global regions and examine ongoing medical and social challenges.

Prevalence and Types of Skin Excision Around the World
Skin excision is concentrated in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where it is largely performed by traditional circumcisers using unsterilized blades or knives. According to UNICEF, over 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of skin excision in 30 countries worldwide where data are available. The most common types include:

Clitoridectomy: Partial or total removal of the clitoris. This is the most common type and practiced in parts of Africa, including Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania.

Excision: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora. This is also quite common across Africa and parts of Asia.

Infibulation: Removal of the clitoris, labia minora, and at least the anterior portion of the labia majora. The vaginal opening is narrowed by creating fusion of the wound edges. This is most severe form and practiced in parts of Africa such as Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia.

Social Factors Driving Skin Excision
Cultural and social traditions Global Skin Excision  are the main underlying factors perpetuating the practice of skin excision across different regions. Some of the common cultural reasons propagating it include:

Ensuring girls remain virgins until marriage and preventing sexual desire: Many communities believe excision prevents premarital sex and extramarital affairs.

Social acceptance and marriageability: In communities that practice it, an uncut girl may face social stigma and fewer marriage prospects. Excision is seen as a rite of passage into womanhood.

Hygiene and aesthetics: False beliefs in some communities view external genitalia as unclean and undesirable. Excision is believed to promote hygiene and remove anything considered male from a woman’s body.

Religion: Though not promoted by any religion, some communities believe it has religious support. However, major religious texts do not advocate or even mention female genital mutilation.

Health Impacts of Skin Excision

Female genital cutting can severely harm girls’ and women’s physical and psychological health, both in the short and long term. Some immediate and long-term health consequences include:

Severe bleeding and risk of death: Skin excision is usually performed without anesthesia and sterilized equipment. It can cause severe bleeding and occasional death resulting from hemorrhagic shock or sepsis from infections.

Pain and trauma: Removal of sensitive genital tissues causes both short term pain and long term psychological trauma. Without proper medical care, girls can go into shock from the pain.

Urinary problems: FGM/C can cause urinary retention, infections, pelvic infections and difficulties in passing urine. The scar tissue formed may lead to urinary incontinence or cysts.

Childbirth complications: Excised women face risks during childbirth like difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, episiotomies, higher risk of Cesarean section and newborn death. Infibulation needs to be cut open during delivery, increasing risks.

Sexual problems: FGM/C interferes with natural sexual functions. It can cause discomfort, pain during sex and decreased sexual desire. The practice violates women’s and girls’ basic rights to health, security and physical integrity.

Global Efforts Towards Eliminating Skin Excision
In light of the severe health risks and human rights violations associated with the practice, there has been substantial international momentum to eliminate female genital cutting. Some of the key global efforts include:

International and regional treaties: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child expressly prohibit FGM/C. Regional charters in Africa also ban the practice.

Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 5 aims to eliminate all harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM/C by 2030 through focused policies, legislation and programs.

Grassroots activism: Strong community advocacy organizations have mobilized to raise public awareness and change social norms through dialogues, alternative rites of passage ceremonies and legal reforms.

Criminalization: Over 30 countries have outlawed FGM/C through legislation. However, lack of enforcement remains a challenge. Legal reforms need to go hand in hand with community engagement.

Health system strengthening: Training healthcare workers, offering medical care for cut women and establishing rehabilitation centers help address health impacts of FGM/C. Sensitization reduces medicalization of the practice.

While global efforts show progress in addressing female genital cutting, millions of girls remain at risk due to deeply entrenched cultural and social norms in communities that practice it. Ending this harmful tradition requires sustained, multipronged initiatives at the grassroots, national and international levels through education, legal reforms and empowering women as agents of change. With targeted advocacy and cross-sector collaboration, the world can accelerate efforts to eliminating this violation of girls’ and women’s basic rights.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it