ver Spring, MD, USA | Bettina Krause / ANN

A Seventh-day Adventist health and ethics committee has issued a statement opposing the widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and is calling for renewed efforts to eliminate the practice that has affected an estimated 100 to 132 million women living today.

Drawing on Biblical principles, the three-page statement was drafted by the General Conference Christian View of Human Life Committee. It states that FGM “is harmful to health, threatening to life, and injurious to sexual function,” and is thus “incompatible with the will of God.” The statement calls on health care professionals, medical and educational institutions, and church members to work together, in a culturally sensitive way, to eliminate the practice of FGM and to extend compassionate care to those women already affected.

FGM is a cross-cultural, cross-religious custom, which some justify on many different grounds. In some areas FGM is a quasi-religious ritual, while in other places it is a longstanding custom considered necessary to keep young girls chaste and to make women fit for marriage. The practice can be carried out at any time from infancy through to the time of a woman’s first pregnancy, but the most common age is between four and ten years of age.

Possible immediate complications of FGM include hemorrhage, shock and infection. In the long-term, an FGM procedure can result in urinary tract disorders (such as incontinence), infertility, sexual dysfunction, menstrual abnormalities and painful and prolonged labor during childbirth due to the buildup of scar tissue.

Dr. Paul Wangai, health director for the Adventist Church in Eastern Africa, says the Church’s statement on FGM is “right on target.” Wangai calls the practice of FGM “indefensible from a medical, social, psychological, family life and spiritual standpoint.”

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church [in eastern Africa] has joined its voice to the other faith communities in condemning this habit and providing shelters as refuge to the few non-Christian would-be victims who run away to seek assistance,” says Wangai. “We see this as part of our Christian responsibility to our society.”

“We also provide awareness seminars and training for our members to be able to assist other non-members in the communities where they dwell and interact with others at work.”

Ardis Stenbakken, director for women’s issues for the world Church, has welcomed the statement, calling it a “compassionate and appropriate response to what is, for millions of young girls around the world, an ongoing nightmare.”

“As Christians, we can do no less than work to eliminate this practice which leaves such physical and emotional scars on so many women,” says Stenbakken.

FGM is a procedure in which the external female genitalia are mutilated or cut away, usually in unsanitary conditions, with either knives, scissors, pieces of glass or razor blades. A recent World Health Organization study shows that anesthetics and antiseptics are not generally used, and that poor lighting and crude tools often result in unintended damage. It is estimated that some two million girls worldwide are subjected to the practice each year.

Different forms of FGM are practiced throughout the African continent, from Kenya and Sudan to Mali and the Ivory Coast, and in many Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Immigrant communities in the West sometimes also keep the practice alive.Content-Disposition: form-data; name=“comment”