Agnes Von Kenn reminds us that is hasn’t gone away
Even after decades of protest and progress, sexism is still alive and well in Ireland today. Many believe that women are not properly represented in Irish politics and a survey published in 2012 reports that 75% of Irish women feel they have been discriminated against in the workplace because of their gender at some point.
But one of the biggest cases of sexism in our country is often overlooked, even though it affects approximately 3,000 women living in Ireland today. It is the horrendous issue of FGM.
FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is defined as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any practice which deliberately alters or injures the female genital organs for non-medical purposes. Usually, the practice is extremely unhygienic as well as unimaginably painful. It has been known to be carried out with razor blades, roasting hot stones or even broken glass. Pretty gruesome, huh?
Don’t worry, I won’t go into any more detail than that. The purpose of this article is not to make you lose your lunch.
So why does such a heinous thing happen to 8,000 girls and women worldwide EVERY DAY? Mostly, it’s for the preservation of virginity until marriage. After it’s done, sexual intercourse becomes so unbearably painful for the woman that it’s almost a full guarantee she won’t have sex before marrying her future husband.
This means that FGM is a reflection of the deep inequality between the sexes. It is an extreme form of discrimination against women.
FGM is known to happen in areas of Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. Central and South American ethnic groups are also known to practice it. While there is no evidence of FGM happening on our own shores, plenty of women living in Ireland had it done to them before residing here. And there is some proof to suggest that many parents undergo pressure from families back home to fly their daughters to their countries of origin for the purpose of FGM.
But even with so many women in this country living with it, Ireland does not properly train medical professionals, protection workers or the Gardaí about it. So oftentimes, these women must deal with the painful and upsetting repercussions of FGM completely on their own. This can include infections, indescribable discomfort, problems going to the bathroom, complicated childbirth and agonising menstruation.
It’s interesting to note that FGM has nothing to do with religion. Although it’s carried out in Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities, none of the sacred texts of any religion prescribe it. For this reason, many believe it is realistic to think that it can be stopped.
FGM is one of the campaigns Amnesty International Ireland is working on at the minute. After years of their campaigning, the Irish Government quite recently introduced a comprehensive bill for anti-FGM laws in Europe. As of March 2012, the Oireachtas has signed this law into being, making it illegal to take a girl out of this country for the purpose of FGM.
Amnesty International Ireland is now campaigning for medical professionals in Ireland to be fully trained to help deal with the effects of FGM. They are also looking to work with different FGM-practicing communities across the globe towards the complete abandonment of the practice.
So yes, discrimination is still showing signs of life in Ireland today. And maybe now it’s time for the women of Ireland to unite and fight against this brutal and sexist human rights violation.