According to a top United Nations official in Iraq, the Sunni Islamist group ISIS in control of the city Mosul might be on the way to imposing female genital mutilation. The edict, also known as “fatwa,” would force all women between the ages of 11 and 46 to undergo “cutting,” or slicing off parts of their private parts — affecting nearly 4 million women in the northern city of Mosul, the BBC reports.
Jacqueline Badcock, the resident and humanitarian coordinator for the UN in Iraq, said in a video directed at reporters that the practice “is something very new for Iraq… and does need to be addressed.” She continued: “This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists.”
Since her update, however, other journalists have reported that the female genital mutilation in Iraq claim is false, and overall plenty of contradictory information on the matter has surfaced. Regardless, the fact that the notion of female genital mutilation being carried out in an Iraqi city is plausible should make us wonder why this practice still exists in the world.
In 2012, the UN approved a resolution that called for all member states to ban the ritual practice of cutting females’ genitalia. Traditionally, it was practiced in African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries due to the belief that it would prepare girls for adulthood or marriage, but it poses numerous health risks. Girls who are genitally mutilated may experience problems with urination, a risk of infections and severe bleeding, and potential infertility and a higher risk of deaths in childbirth. Though the procedure can be done in clinics, which alleviates some risk, many girls as young as 7 are simply taken without consent and cut up in rural areas without any proper care or medication.
UNICEF states that 130 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), but rates have decreased — now there’s a 33 percent less chance that a girl would be cut than 30 years ago. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), FGM has no health benefits for women: it defines the process as “intentionally alter[ing] or caus[ing] injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” The practice is recognized as a human rights violation, and “reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women,” the WHO states.
There are various different types of FGM, including clitoridectomy — the removal of the clitoris; excision, or the removal of the clitoris and inner labia; infibulation, which involves cutting or sewing up the genitalia to prevent women from having premarital sex; and any other type of genital damage like burning or scraping. As a cultural practice, it aimed to decrease women’s ability to have sexual relations before marriage, or their ability to have affairs during marriage, and was meant to render a woman “hygienic, chaste, and faithful.” The worst part is that these women don’t even receive anaesthetic when undergoing the cutting procedure. Countries in which FGM is prevalent include Mali, Sudan, Egypt, and Somalia.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced at the Girl Summit this month that he would be pushing a FGM Prevention Programme that would fight both FGM and forced marriage in both the U.K. and in other countries. "My eldest daughter is 10," Cameron said, according to the Belfast Telegraph. "Not that much younger than some of the children who get pushed into childhood or early marriage, not that much younger than girls who get cut and have their lives in so many ways taken away from them. This really is about the world that we want children like my daughter to grow up in."