17 December 2012

Tanzania: FGM Is Really Bad, It Must Be Fought

Photo: Lauren Everitt/AllAfrica
Campaign to protect girl child underway in Tanzania.

IT has come to light that an unspecified number of girls have been lined up for female genital mutilation (FGM) in Tarime District villages this month.

The malpractice, which is illegal in this country, persists despite intermittent government's interventions. Deputy Community Development, Gender and Children Minister Ummy Mwalimu visited several villages during the weekend in an attempt to fight the practice.

The fact that it is still continuing despite all these efforts to check it, shows that some village elders are diehards who have refused to see sense and change. The elders' argument is that FGM curbs sexual desires in young girls, sort of a deterrence for them to engage in premarital sex. Whatever the ruse for FGM, the practice is unnecessary and detrimental to good feminine health.

But FGMs are risky undertakings. FGMs have been known to cause massive haemorrhage. Major blood loss can result in long-term anaemia. In fact, losses of lives have often occurred following the crude cuts. Even female infants have not been spared.

The rite is conducted clandestinely under a shroud of secrecy to avoid the attention of security organs. The incisor wanders casually into the baby's home and works in dim light. FGM, which is normally carried out on girls, is performed with crude homemade knives, pairs of scissors, scalpels and pieces of glass or razor blades.

There is often additional unintended damage to the private parts of the victims due to crudeness of the tools, poor light or septic conditions. Infection, due to unhygienic environment and the use of crude, unsterilized tools, is a likely consequence. Infection can also be contracted due to the application of traditional herbs such as crushed tree leaves or roots often used for healing the wound.

In urban centres affluent families prefer eliciting the services of health personnel such as midwives and doctors. However, the government and the WHO have consistently condemned the "medicalization" of both circumcision and FGM. The WHO sees the practices as unnecessary as they are likely to carry serious, potentially dangerous complications.

In rural Tanzania, FGM may not cross many minds as a public health hazard that warrants condemnation as it bears nasty physical, sexual and psychological consequences. In fact, incisors that carry out FGM on infants must be stark raving mad.

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