Experts have long held that allowing any form of female genital mutilation to exist is damaging, and regressive.
But since some people aren’t convinced of that fact, the nonprofit Integrate UK, which works toward fostering equality and integration, released a catchy music video in December to address the issue. Titled “#MyClitoris,” the video took on significant meaning this week: Monday marked Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation Day, an annual awareness campaign aimed at ending FGM.
“Seems it’s up to us girls to be quite tough,” the girls in the video sing. “If we need to spell it out, get your mitts off my muff.”
FGM involves the total or partial removal of external female genitalia for no medical benefit, and comes with a host of serious health consequences, including heavy bleeding, sepsis and infertility, among other issues. Communities perform the procedure as a way to keep girls “pure” and prevent them from having pre-marital sex.
At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, according to the United Nations. The number of women who are at risk in the U.S. has tripled in recent years.
Set against a light pink backdrop, the girls in the “#MyClitoris” video wear floral crowns and pearls, and gently tap their feet to a folksy tune. They take ownership of the overtly feminine expectations of young women and turn them on their head as they sing about their vaginas, clitorises and the fact that they alone can decide what happens to their bodies.
“They say it’s OK for a little bit to be taken away from my clit,” the song continues. “No, thank you.”
The video, which decidedly challenges the idea that men can control women’s bodies by disfiguring them, was produced in response to a controversial op-ed The Economist published in June. The column suggested that outright banning all forms of FGM isn’t working. Instead, the author wrote, governments should consider banning the worst forms of female genital mutilation and allowing trained professionals to perform the types that aren’t as harmful.
“Instead of trying to stamp FGM out entirely, governments should ... try to persuade parents to choose the least nasty version, or none at all,” the author wrote. “However distasteful, it is better to have a symbolic nick from a trained health worker than to be butchered in a back room by a village elder.”
The concept of medicalizing FGM has been suggested in the past. In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement saying that performing a “ritual nick” could help wipe out the practice. But some experts say that was actually a damaging setback to ending FGM.
Medical experts across the globe have expressed their opposition to allowing any form of FGM to continue.
Last year, the World Health Organization issued its first-ever medical guidelines on FGM. The guidelines help doctors identify cases of FGM, and treat the issues those patients could present, including depression and problems with sexual health.
The guidelines also urge doctors to treat FGM as abuse, not a cultural practice.
“If we’re thinking this a cultural issue and we don’t want to get involved, we are not safeguarding people at risk,” Comfort Momoh, a midwife who treats FGM survivors at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospital in London, said at a health conference last year. “FGM is everybody’s business.”