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Inter-African Committee proceeding with tactful sensitization in fight against female circumcision.

Action Child. 1987;2(3):1-2.

Inter-African Committee proceeding with tactful sensitization in fight against female circumcision.

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ABSTRACT

PIP: Despite tremendous health risks, female circumcision is a prevalent practice throughout Africa today, affecting 75,000,000 women and children in 26 different African countries. There are three types of female circumcision: infibulation, excision, and circumcision. The first procedure involves cutting off the whole clitoris, the labia minora and parts of the labia majora and stitching the vulva closed, leaving only a small opening for urination and menstruation. In excision, the prepuce, clitoris, and all or part of the labia minora are removed. Circumcision refers to the removal of the foreskin of the clitoris. Severe medical complications may arise from female circumcision. Immediate risks include hemorrhage, tetanus and septicemia infection from unsterile and crude cutting instruments, sexual mutilation, bleeding of adjacent organs, and shock. Long term complications include scars which shrink the genital passage resulting in blockage of menstruations, painful intercourse, and tearing of tissue and hemorrhaging during childbirth. Adverse psychological effects may also be experienced. The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children employs gentle persuasion and gradual education (instead of government edit and external protest) in their fight against female circumcision. Since 1984, much progress has been made: Active national committees have been established in 11 African nations and have sponsored educational workshops, media talks, and training for nurses and traditional birth attendants. Those seeking to justify continuing female circumcision use moral and religious arguments, but powerful social pressures truly reinforce the practice. Uncircumcised women are still considered second-class citizens. In response, the Inter-African Committee has developed several educational materials and stands behind efforts to have female circumcision addressed in overall national policies of primary health care. They also urge the linkage of this issue with the Alma Ata Declaration of “Health For All By The Year 2000.”

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