February 24, 2016
Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, gynaecologists recently called for a ‘compromise’ on Female Genital Mutilation, also known as Female Genital Cutting, that would legally permit a surgical ‘nick’ be performed on girls and young women.
Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Amref Health Africa’s Kenya-based Group CEO and a physician with a specialty in OB-GYN, responds:
“Amref Health Africa respects community cultural practices and encourages communities to continue with their rites of passage for girls but abandon the harmful cut administered to the external genitalia of girls, known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC). We do not support any form of alteration of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons.
FGM is a harmful practice which results in numerous medical complications including severe bleeding, infection, blockage of the urinary tract with renal complications and even death and later in life may result in inability to deliver normally with resultant prolonged labour, vesico-vaginal fistula (hole in the birth canal) and death of mother or infant.
It's important to understand that FGM has no medical benefits and, as such, to advocate for any form of it is to miss the point.
Africa has numerous health care challenges which contribute 25% of the world’s burden of disease with only 3% of the world’s health workforce.
It would be totally counterproductive to discuss legalizing any level of a procedure with no medical benefit and divert these limited human resources for health to overseeing and regulating it.
Amref Health Africa believes in the power of communities to take charge of their own affairs and has been implementing the Alternative Rite of Passage with great success in the Maasai communities of Kenya where more than 9,000 girls have graduated without experiencing FGM.
Amref Health Africa believes that the real success will be obtained by advocating for Alternative Rite of Passage alongside legal measures as well as for the harmful effects of FGM to be added in the school’s curriculum to be taught early in life as is currently underway in Kenya.
With increasing primary enrolment in Africa for both girls and boys, this would allow an opportunity to educate them early and empower them to discuss their choices with their parents.”
Dr. Githinji Gitahi
Amref Health Africa