Following a temporary ban on female genital mutilation during the Ebola crisis, FGM is on the rise again in Sierra Leone. Worldwide, some 200 million girls and women have had their genitals cut, whether by force or by choice.
During Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak, the government banned female genital mutilation (FGM) in an emergency health measure.
But the practice is back despite a growing global drive to eradicate it.
FGM can cause severe bleeding, pain, shock, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. It increases the risk of labour complications and newborn deaths. The procedure itself can prove fatal.
“When I was feeling, that they were removing something from me,” says a victim of FGM, Aminata Sesay. She says two women pinned her down when she was sleeping and mutilated her genitals.
Religion, tradition and hygiene are some of the reasons given for continued support for the practice.
But critics say that such reasons are based on the control of female sexuality.
Many advocates believe it purifies the girl, affords her status in the community and prevents promiscuity. Uncut girls may risk ostracisation. FGM is sometimes mistakenly thought to increase fertility and make childbirth safer for the baby.