Many FGM/C Practices Hidden in Pakistan

02/01/2012 - Despite the fact that Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Pakistan is considered to be wiped out, victims, religious leaders and midwives say that it is still done and hidden from the public and officials.

In an interview with IRIN, medical students at colleges in Pakistan studying gynaecology have stated that they see evidence of FGM/C when examining women.

One student who was interviewed stated that “Recently, we examined a woman who complained of pain in her genital region. We were shocked to see when we examined her that she had suffered some mutilation of her private parts. I have read about these practices but I didn’t know they took place here.”

The student’s surprise at seeing evidence of the practise is due to the fact that in Pakistan FGM/C is for the most part hidden, and hardly ever spoken of. Not many of the public know much about it.

For some interviewed in the medical field, the country is considered to be “free” of FGM/C.  However, some communities continue to practise FGM/C, including the Bohra community, a sect of the majority Muslim population which numbers some 100,000.

Other groups which carry out the mutilation in Pakistan are groups with African or Arab origins. 

Rough estimates state that at least 50-60 percent of Bohra women undergo circumcision, involving usually a symbolic snipping of the clitoris.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), FGM/C “includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. Much of the cutting which still occurs in Pakistan is done for symbolic reason.

Shershah Syed, a former president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, stated that “In Pakistan, with growing awareness [of the effects of FGM/C], they are now doing it merely symbolically, with only a bit of skin being removed. But even so, I find it to be in clear violation of human rights. There is absolutely no scientific evidence supporting any medical benefit of the procedure. In fact, it can lead to health complications.”

The WHO lists the string of complications that can arise from the procedure, including repeated infections, cysts, infertility, higher childbirth complications and the need for repeated surgeries.

In an interview with IRIN, psychologist Aliya Rizvi in Pakistan stated that “The impact is not just on health, it is psychological too. Such practices leave deep scars, and in our country these have not been studied at all, because so little is known about the mutilation of women in this way.”

It says an estimated 100-140 million girls and women worldwide are living with FGM/C, 92 million of them in Africa.