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Stopping Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation is a centuries’ old custom which entails the partial or total removal of a girl’s genital parts for cultural reasons. “Cutting” is often a rite of passage for girls in many countries, most commonly in Africa. Claudia Cappa, a statistics and monitoring specialist for UNICEF, and the author of the most extensive report on FGM/C yet, joined me recently to talk about this horrific practice.

According to the report, the majority of the victims are younger than 5, sometimes as early as right after childbirth. FGM/C is typically performed with a blade or razor in poor sanitary conditions in the home done by “traditional cutters.” Only a few countries employ healthcare professionals. The most extreme practice, infibulation, entails excising the labia, and sometimes the clitoris, then sewing the opening closed, leaving open a small hole that can be accessed for urination, menstruation, sex, and childbirth.

Over 125 million women alive today in 29 countries have gone through this procedure, even though 24 of these countries have laws against these practices. Women are increasingly more aware of the dangers of the practice; however, we’ve seen very little actual decline in its occurrence. Cappa emphasizes that there is little communication about the issue; women believe this is what is expected of them by their family, their community, by men, and by their religions.

While attitudes are slowly shifting, Cappa told me it will take time to promote education and awareness: after all, the practice has been around for centuries. Listeners to the Maria Sanchez Show can help by donating to UNICEF’s United Nations Population Fund.

For more information on the current events of the day, and for more information on how to help UNICEF’s efforts, check out the Maria Sanchez Show and the podcast on July 26th by clicking here.

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