Female Genital Mutilation has been a major issue in last few centuries. However, FGM had existed for so long that it has became a second nature in practising communities. Criminalising FGM may be able to stop certain group of people who fear legal sanction upon them. But, would that be effective enough? Would authorities of the community be able to enforce the law enacted? Laws prohibiting FGM had been proven ineffective due to the reluctance of authorities to enforce the law. Tanzania for example, was openly condemned for the failure to enforce the law enacted to ban FGM.
26 Hence, outlawing FGM and criminalising FGM practitioner may not be the best mean to deal with this practise. The fact that FGM is able to cause such a huge chaos internationally was due to several reasons. Globalisation has brought people around the globe to come into contact and cultural exchange could be seen everywhere. Immigrants or tourists who came from FGM practising communities may not be able to find medical aid for their needs. Circumcised women faces difficulties to obtain medical aid for their special need in foreign countries where FGM was not common.
27 When seeking medical aid, circumcised women may face difficult and embarrassing moments with physicians who were ignorant about FGM. 28 Criminalising FGM indirectly implies that there's no need for medical practitioner to be aware and trained for circumcised females. Hence, the lack of health-care services may lead to severe problems where circumcised individual fails to acquire proper medical attention on time. Circumcised individuals may not be aware of the health risk affecting them due to the lack of health education.
Without the professional guidance and treatment, FGM would continue as mothers who were not aware of the risk of FGM would continue the practise on their daughters. Criminalising FGM without proper education would not be sufficient. People will not be able to apprehend the reasoning behind criminalising FGM. Moreover, a lot of FGM practising communities especially the Africans located in rural areas where authorities may not be able to reach them to prevent FGM. FGM, although morally unacceptable, has been so deeply rooted in societies that it would be hard to eliminate it.
However, criminalising FGM at this stage would be irrelevant as the past has proven. The law would be useless without enforcement and the authorities who are responsible are part of the FGM practising community. It is hard to convince the authority to criminalise FGM. Therefore, the reluctance of them to enforce the law would only cause the law to be abandoned. Cultural tradition is the main issue in this context non-performance of FGM would be a greater crime in the society that people tend to be determining to continue their tradition.
If the government insist on criminalising FGM, it would be important to convince the authorities in charge that FGM is harmful to females that it is such a severe crime and intolerable. Influential leaders would be a better route to convey the harmful effect of FGM and the legal sanction that could be executed. However, if FGM is medicalised, it can be easily supervised. Authorities may have better chance to expose and educate people the harm of FGM. Medicalising FGM allows a better environment and would be able to lessen the risk of infections or death during circumcision.
Proper operation procedure would allow physicians to give their patients the best medical advice and necessary pre-operation procedures would always in the patient's best interest. Medical practitioner's professional advice on FGM may be more convincing to patients. Therefore, they may be at a better position to suggest patients to choose circumcision types with lesser harm. People may opt for trained practitioners for circumcision for more secured condition as trained physicians will be able to handle unpredictable complications during or after the operation.
By medicalising FGM, the harmful consequences of FGM and its post-operation complication would be easily attended and circumcised females suffering could be minimised. Despite the strong belief that circumcision keeps women from promiscuity and promotes their fertility, circumcised women often became infertile due to the operation. 29 FGM does not only provide the promised benefit but creates life-long suffering to women who have undergone its procedure. Due to the lack of medical treatment after the operation, victims often suffer complications such as haemorrhage30 that could be easily avoided if FGM was medicalised.
Criminalising FGM only causes people who wanted to perform the operation to perform the operation in secret. By doing so, they may be reluctant to call for medical assistance when complications occur and causing pain or even death to the victim. Life that could be saved may be sacrificed unnecessarily. Although the World Health Organisation had firmly opposes medicalising FGM31, criminalising it has proven to be ineffective after so many years. The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation 1985 was one of the proofs that it does not matter to FGM practitioner whether it is a crime or not.
Cultural and religious obligation together with psycho-socio pressure within the community has a greater influence in the people. Therefore, criminalising FGM would be irrelevant and should be reconsidered. Medicalising FGM would be a better effort to end or at least reduce the unwanted risk of FGM. Female genital mutilation or female circumcision was indeed a harmful practise that violates essential human rights and should be called to an end as soon as possible. In the United Kingdom, FGM not only violates human rights as stated in the Human Rights Act 1998 but also considered a crime under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.
International treaties and laws have been ratified in order to curb the continuance of FGM practise. However, it has been proven to be ineffective as years have passed by and the problem of FGM still goes on. Moral obligation and human's right may not effectively deal with the cultural practise of FGM. Therefore, medicalising FGM in order to deal with the problem that was caused or may occur would be more relevant. Since criminalising FGM in 1985 in UK, no significant result has been proven. Although WHO has strong opposition of medicalising FGM is understandable, but, criminalising it could not bring much benefit to the victims.
Medical attention is essential to FGM victims. If FGM continues to be criminalised but minor effort was given to cope with the offence, it would not be able to end the practise. Woman should always have the right to decide for their own course. FGM do violates their right to privacy and personal enjoyment and should not be continued. However, the law that has been enacted should not deny woman's right to give consent for FGM to be performed on them. Although the law was enacted to protect woman from harmful practises, denying woman's consenting ability in FGM violates their human rights as well.
Adult female capacity to decide for their own should not be interfere by the government. Education should be the best option to cope with the practise of female genital mutilation. Although education would be hard and might take a very long time, it would be more effective than any other means of stopping this practise. An ancient tradition will not easily fall by implementing legal sanction and banning it by force. Education is the only way that ideas and knowledge could be easily accepted by people and passes on. Therefore, authorities should not rush to end the practise by criminalising it.
Instead, patience would be the essential element in order to bring an end to the harm caused by FGM. Although harmful it may seem, FGM plays an important role in socially and culturally that forcing people to abandon the practise would only bring negative effects to the practise. If the people are educated slowly but effectively by proving the harm of FGM, people would slowly omit the practise thus abandon the practise totally. In the end, given the time needed, FGM will not be performed and the problem would be solved.