An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of female genital cutting, also called female circumcision. Female genital cutting includes several different forms of cutting practiced for hundreds of years. Infibulation, the most severe, involves cutting some or all of the external genitalia, leaving only a very small opening for urination and menstruation.
The procedure can also cause serious health and social problems that follow a woman her whole life. The health complications from infibulation can include chronic and severe pain, infection, prolonged and difficult labor and difficulties with menstruation. Psychologically, cutting can cause tension between couples due to painful or difficult sexual relations. Socially, cutting makes it harder for girls to go to school or earn income by making them more likely to marry early.
The practice of female genital cutting is disturbing to talk about. It is part of deeply-held religious and cultural beliefs in communities that practice it. But it also is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
Every year, in communities around the world, as many as 3 million girls are at risk of this painful procedure despite its many risks. We must do all we can to encourage the governments in the communities where female genital cutting most often occurs to put a stop to it. You can help. Ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do all she can to urge countries who practice female genital cutting to protect human rights and end this harmful practice.
Photo: 2008 Josh Estey/CARE