2015 Edition of the International Day for the Fight against Female Genital Mutilation.
Theme:”Mobilising and Involving the Health Personnel to Accelerate Zero Tolerance to FGM”.
STOP STOP STOP Violence Against Women and Girls!
STOP STOP Harmful Cultural Practices Against Women and Girls!
STOP Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting!
Some women think that Male Circumcision is more painful than Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).I urge you readers to think about the differences… You will agree with me that Male Circumcision makes the penis look more attractive and active, while FGM makes the vulva ugly and less functional.
Well, this article relates my field work experience during the celebration of the International Day for the Fight against FGM this year 2015, in Bafoussam, Mifi Division in the West Region of Cameroon.
FGM is a cultural practice existing in this part of the country. It involves the cutting off of the clitoris, the partial or complete removal of the inner and/or outer lips; and sometimes the closing up of the vulva, with only a hole left to pass out urine or menses. On 27th January 2015, my team visited a Mbororo men’s cultural meeting MBOSCUDA, to sensitise them about this deadly cultural practice. 16 men attended the meeting, and revealed that the practice is real amongst Muslim families that they know in the community. Then on 04th February 2015, after sensitising the head of Imams in Bafoussam, we were granted space to meet the Muslim women and men in another sensitisation talk managed by guest speaker, Dr Keuko Sandrace (Polyclinique la Bienveillance, Bafoussam). Here, my team worked with a population that feared our interference with their culture. One of the participants, a traditional Doctor, who certainly, makes a living from this activity, told us that the practice nolonger exists in their community in Bafoussam; because, for the past 20 years, he has not done it on any girl or woman. I wasn’t satisfied with the response, although I was glad to learn that in this community, we have men who do the excision. Then I decided to share out papers to get anonymous responses. Out of the 57 participants censored, 49 said that they had never practised FGM in their families; 04 said Yes they had been victims; 01 said it is practised amongst the Chadians and Haussas; and 03 remained indifferent. Yet, in one of our workshops that held in the Sub-District Hospital in Lafe-Baleng, the incharge, Dr Noubom Michel added that FGM is done even in marriage. He added that nowadays it is common to find these women and girls victims wearing ear-rings on their vulva.
With reference to a study publised by the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family in partnership with the UNFPA, titled “Situational Analysis of FGM in Cameroon” (December 2010), the FGM is practised in some tribes in the Far-North and South-West Regions and in some quarters in big towns where these people have migrated to. This is true, as is the case with Haussa quarters in Bafoussam today. More so, the country is experiencing an armed conflict in the Far North region, following Boko Haram attacks that is displacing many families; and the youths are promoting mixed marriages – these are other socio-cultural factors to consider that many parts of Cameroon could be affected by the FGM practice.
My team programmed and successfully organised workshops from 2nd – 6th February 2015, in 07 public and private hospitals, namely: CMA Djeleng, CMA Lafe-Baleng, CMC SOS Ouest Sante, Polyclinique La Bienveillance, Hopital de District de la Mifi, Centre de Sante Integre King Place and the Acha Hospital, all in Mifi Division; and with the Muslim community in Haussa Quarters. Our target groups were: Professional Medical Students, Hospital Heads and staff, Religious/Traditional Authorities, Health Community Mobilisers, Journalists and Women. In all, some 491 persons filled our attendance sheets, including 180 men and 311 women.
The following results were obtained:
Reasons why FGM is practised on young girls and women –
=Initiate the women
=Control and preserve her virginity before marriage and fidelity during marriage
=Promote soil fertility in the land
=Respect religious prescriptions, particularly the Islamic religion
=belief that the clitoris that comes in contact with a man duing sexual intercourse might result to his death; or the clitoris that touches a baby during delivery may cause the newborn baby to be bisexual
=Lack of correct information and knowledge about the practice
=Lack of an existing Law that directly condemns the practice and its perpetrators
=FGM is a cycle (of violence) that repeats itself in the family and,
=Men’s egoism and exercise of excessive control and power over women and girls.
This practice has long-lasting devastating effects on the victim and her environment.
At the time of excision, she suffers from excessive bleeding which sometimes can result to death. When she survives, psychologically, she is stigmatised, suffers from anxiety, depression and a permanent trauma.
About her sexual life, she does not feel comfortable being closely examined by her partner or a medical officer. The lips are nerve tissues that have been tampered with, and this gives her pain throughout her life. She looses sexual pleasure and cannot participate fully in any sexual act.
Healthwise, the victim is exposed to infections, STI/HIV, retention of menstrual flow and other disorders, fistula, cysts and abscess develop around the vulva, infertility and, an increase in infant and maternal mortality.
All girls and women victims of FGM need urgent medical surgery, psycho-social assistance and legal assistance. Everyone, including the health worker, needs correct information and to be an eye in the community and for the government, to report and provide treatment to victims of FGM, their families and perpetrators.
Marah M N Epie
Divisional Delegate of Women’s Empowerment
And the Family for Mifi, Bafoussam