In Norrköping in eastern Sweden, up to 60 cases of genital mutilation among elementary school girls has been discovered since March. Out of those 60 cases, 28 girls underwent the most severe form.
The abuse was discovered by health services in a Norrköping school in eastern Sweden. Victims were detected by displaying severe symptoms of recurring headaches and painful menstrual cramps.
Female genital mutilation or FGM is such a serious problem in Sweden that the law enables genital examination of children without parents’ consent.
FGM has been a crime in Sweden since 1982 and can be punished by up to four years in prison or in cases of aggravated offence, 10 years. With the influx of Somali migrants in the early and mid-1990s, FGM became widespread in Sweden.
Currently the practice is still being conducted and many times, it is when girls travel to their home countries with their parents. Even traveling to other countries still does not protect parents’ from jail time, as it is still an offence under Swedish law to perform the surgery in another country.
FGM has no health benefits and actually cause several health problems. As stated by the World Health Organization, immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue. Later complications include cysts, recurring bladder and urinary tract infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
According to WHO, more than 125 million girls and women alive today worldwide have been mutilated in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated. FGM is usually performed on young girls between infancy and age 15 and sometimes on adult women.
Sweden is not the only country in the world where FGM is still practiced. Due to immigration, parents who still believe in performing FGM, will still subject children to this cruelty.
In the United States, the Center for Disease Control estimated in 1997 that 168,000 girls had undergone FGM or were at risk. In that same year, it became illegal to perform FGM on anyone under the age of 18.
It was not even until January 2013 that the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act was passed prohibiting knowingly transporting a girl out of the country to perform FGM.
There is much controversy regarding FGM. Feminists and women rights’ activists have been fighting against the practice for some time because they state it is “dehumanizing” while others’ feel that cultures who practice FGM have the right to maintain their cultural, religious or social beliefs.
It is alarming that the practice of FGM is so widespread nowadays. Although in some cultures it is a “rite of passage,” the fact remains that children are forced against their will to undergo a procedure that has many adverse health and mental effects.