Female genital mutilation — an exported medical hazard.

Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2005 Jun;10(2):93-7.

Female genital mutilation — an exported medical hazard.

Elgaali M, Strevens H, Mårdh PA.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Lund University, Sweden.

BACKGROUND: Female circumcision (FC) has remained a common practice in the countries where it has traditionally been performed. Following increased global mobility, it has also become a common medical issue in the predominantly non-Islamic countries where an increasing number of immigrants from regions where FC is still traditional, have settled. OBJECTIVES: To investigate types of FC found in a group of immigrants from northern Africa with a current domicile in Scandinavia. To characterize these women with regard to education, socio-economic status and experienced complications and sequelae. To report attitudes to FC among the women and their husbands. METHODS: An autoquestionnaire was distributed to 220 immigrant women (16-42 years old), who belonged to an African community in Scandinavia and who had all been circumcised. Information was also gathered concerning 76 of their daughters (aged 1-13 years). Of the women’s husbands, 95 were asked about their attitudes to FC. RESULTS: Of the 140 women, who had been circumcised in their home country before they migrated, 78 (35%) had been clitoridectomized, 38 (17%) had been subjected to genital excision and 24 (11%) to infibulation. The corresponding percentages in the remaining women, who had had FC when returning home for a visit, were 0%, 14% and 22%, respectively. Of the daughters, 15 (19%) had been circumcised whilst living in Scandinavia; all had been clitoridectomized. Twenty-eight (13%) women reported having experienced late complications or post-FC sequelae. A positive attitude to stopping the tradition of FC was reported twice as often by the husbands (69%) as by the circumcised women (35%). Religion (95% of the responders were Muslims and 5% Christians), cultural tradition, and increased chance of marriage or of continued health were the reasons put forward in favor of the continuation of FC by 58%, 27%, 10% and 4 %, respectively. Five per cent could not supply an opinion. CONCLUSIONS: FC is performed in immigrant women even after settling in areas where this practise is legally banned. Circumcised immigrant women experience medical and sexual problems which have to be dealt with in their new domicile country. Many African Islamic women, who have migrated to Scandinavia, seem still to be in favour of the continuation of circumcision for varying reasons.

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