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Female Circumcision

According to an article in the British medical journal "Lancet," women who have undergone female circumcision, also referred to as female genital mutilation, are much more likely to become sterile.

Medical researchers studied ninety-nine circumcised women in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. These women were unable to conceive. The researchers found that their reproductive organs had been damaged by infections, traced to female circumcision. Lars Almroth, a physician with Sweden's Karolinska Institute's Division of International Health, is one of the researchers:

"When [there are] complications the girls face immediately after the operation, they usually don't seek medical care for complications. And if they do, they may not name them as complications. They may seek medical care for different symptoms that maybe the doctor doesn't actually associate or relate to genital mutilation."

According to the U.S. State Department's "Report On Genital Mutilation," the origins of the ancient practice are unknown. But what is known are its extremely harmful effects on girls and women. Those effects include urine retention, menstrual problems, and psychological and sexual disorders.

Female mutilation is still practiced across much of Africa and parts of the Middle East and Asia. Though illegal in many places, Amnesty International, an independent human rights monitoring group, says female mutilation has been reported in more than twenty African countries, including Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria. In Somalia, as many as ninety-eight percent of the women have been circumcised. The World Health Organization says that more than one-hundred-thirty-million women and girls have undergone some form of the procedure.

Many international agencies and governments are working to eliminate the practice. Layla Shaaban is an analyst with the U.S. Agency for International Development:

"The argument, the possible link with infertility, could become a new strong argument, an additional argument, as an additional harmful effect of this practice."

Education about the harmful health effects of female genital mutilation, as well as its violation of the rights of women, and work with government, traditional and community leaders is essential if this terrible practice is to be ended.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.