It can be difficult to talk about sexual violence and female genital mutilation (FGM), but awareness about these issues and what people are doing to put an end to them is extremely important. FGM is considered to be “the practice of partially or totally removing the external genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
This is typically carried out on young women who are under the age of 15 and is practiced in several different countries. Not only does this practice violate human rights, it can cause some serious health issues.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM – three million girls are at risk of FGM. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has found that about 513,000 women in the United States have undergone FGM or are at risk for FGM.
Ivona Percec, a cosmetic surgeon and Associate Director of Cosmetic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, recently published an article called Female Genital Mutilation Reconstruction: A Preliminary Report. In the report, Percec noted that we should be raising awareness about this problem, and she calls on plastic and gynecological surgeons to work together to treat women who have undergone FGM.
The report also presents Percec and other doctor’s experience with treatments for women who have been subjected to FGM. She believes cosmetic surgeons have a unique set of skills that can “help these women restore their physical and psychological sense of well-being by providing effective reconstructive options.”
Percec told Time Health, “Plastic surgeons have a crucial role to play in this recovery, and it’s important for physicians to be informed and prepared to address the surgical and emotional needs of women who seek care for this.”
After meeting with her first FGM patient, Percec was shocked by how long this woman had suffered in silence. “It was a psychological shock that this woman had kept the burden to herself. She didn’t even let her husband see what had been done to her. She had lived in this country for multiple years, and had never before tried to get help.”
Percec found that plastic surgeons that treat FGM are a rare find and she did her best to find a way to help her patient. She is now one of those rare surgeons with experience treating FGM.
Jaha Dukureh, a survivor of FGM and founder of an organization called Safe Hands For Girls, told Times Health that the reconstructive surgery she received was “life changing. When you go through FGM, you have something taken away from you, so getting it back is a big part of the healing. That is recovery for a lot of people.”
The ultimate goal is to put an end to FGM, but for now, this surgery can, at the very least, provide some hope for those who have already been affected.
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