Source: Medical Daily
Amid the climbing death toll, the Ebola outbreak has unexpectedly brought female genital mutilation (FGM) to a standstill after FGM practitioners decided to refuse to do the procedure due to fear of Ebola transmission through bodily fluids.
The news brings respite to thousands of girls who would have been otherwise subjected to the centuries-old practice, but we can't help but wonder if the end of Ebola will mean female genital mutilation resumes.
In a visit to Sierra Leone, a country where 90 percent of women between 15 and 49 have experienced some form of female mutilation, Bloomberg investigated how the practice was holding up among the recent Ebola outbreak. The practice, which involves complete or partial circumcision, is gruesome and results in a great loss of blood. Since blood is one of the strongest avenues for Ebola transmission, FGM has now been banned throughout Sierra Leone. Traditional burials have also been put on hold.
According to Kshitij Joshi, head of communication for development at UNICEF in Sierra Leone, although the death caused by Ebola is devastating, the outbreak has given UNICEF workers a "phenomenal opportunity" for cracking down on female genital mutilation.
"If we're looking at a timeframe of March or April for the Ebola crisis to simmer down, from that period up to the next initiation period, we have five, six months to keep on building around the gains we're making," Joshi told Bloomberg.
However, according to the UNICEF workers, not only has the outbreak caused the number of female genital mutilations to fall, but it has also brought exposure to those who persist on going ahead with the procedure.
Although FGM is illegal in Sierra Leone, as it is throughout most of the world, its close cultural ties make it difficult to completely abolish the act. In 2008, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation in an effort to further increase advocacy to end the practice within a generation. Others believe that because the practice has African roots it is only Africans who can truly do away with it. "Change has to come from within," Khadija Bah-Wakefield, a Sierra Leone-born social anthropologist working with the World Health Organization, told Bloomberg. "With education and access to information, the change is slowly happening,"