Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a major problem in several Yemeni provinces as a social tradition, affecting millions of Yemeni girls. Some Yemenis even celebrate the practice, arguing that it is for their happiness and security, while ignoring the negative effects.
FGM is a form of circumcision, and is defined by the World Health Organization as a “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” It is practiced in twenty-seven countries including Yemen, and is often done without anesthesia and with instruments like knives or razors. Most girls are cut before the age of five.
FGM is most widespread in Hodeidah, Aden, Hadramout, and al-Mahra. It is outlawed in most countries where it occurs, for the laws are poorly enforced. The Yemeni government has attempted to prohibit it, and abolish the practice, but struggles against it being an important custom in impoverished rural areas, as well as wider ignorance.
“Our mothers did the same with us, and nothing bad happened to us, so our daughters should have FGM,” said one mother in Hodeidah.
Critic of FGM Ahlam Nabil emphasizes that it is not mentioned in any holy text, whether the Bible or the Qu’ran. It is a pre-Islamic practice, though many are unaware of this.
“Most of those who practice FGM think that Islam compels them to do it, but there is no mention of it.”
The Yemeni Women’s Union estimates that almost 20% of Yemeni girls experience FGM, mostly in rural areas. It varies significantly. Nearly 96% of women have undergone FGM in Hodeidah, Hadramout, and al-Mahra, while in Aden it is 8%.
Ghada Abdullah of the YWU says that there are many negative effects of the practice, including bladder problems. According to the World Health Organization, it can be linked to childbirth complications and maternal deaths, as well as cysts, and sexual problems.
Rabab Saleh, psychologist, called on NGOs and CSOs to stop simply talking about women’s rights and start doing something real.
“They should go to the places where this practice spread and make women aware of its risks and dangers.”