April 22, 2024
Global Skin Excision

Global Skin Excision: A Growing Public Health Concern

Skin excision procedures like female genital mutilation (FGM), breast ironing, and scarification are cultural practices that alter the human body and violate human rights. While most countries have outlawed these harmful practices, they continue to affect millions globally each year due to cultural and social norms. In this article, we explore the global prevalence of different types of skin excision, the physical and psychological impact on victims, and efforts by international organizations to eliminate these human rights violations.

Forms of Skin Excision

There are various forms of skin excision practiced globally for cultural, ritualistic, or aesthetic reasons:

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – Partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. It is mostly practiced in 30 countries in Africa and Middle East and affects over 200 million girls and women globally.

Breast Ironing – Flattening of breast tissue through massaging or pounding the breast of a growing girl using hot tools like stones or hard palm nuts. It is done to delay breast development and prevent unwanted male attention. Reported in Cameroon and parts of Central and West Africa.

Scarification – Surgical incisions made on the skin for design/art purposes which results in prominent raised scars as part of rituals and coming-of-age ceremonies in Africa and some Asian communities.

Penile Subincision – Cutting of the underside of the penis from the scrotum towards the head among some aboriginal tribes in Australia.

While the above are the common types reported globally, some communities also practice other minor forms of skin cutting done for non-medical reasons ranging from facial markings to branding.

Health and Psychological Impact

Skin excision procedures often done in non-sterile conditions carry lifelong health implications:

Risk of severe bleeding, infections like tetanus and HIV/AIDS especially in FGM.

Chronic pain during urination, menstruation or intercourse. Cysts, abscesses and complications during childbirth in FGM survivors.
Keloid scarring, disfigurement and mobility issues in case of extensive scarification markings.

Psychologically, survivors Global Skin Excision suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and low self-esteem due to the trauma. Children subjected to these practices are also at higher risk of mental health issues in adulthood.

Global Efforts to End the Practice

In view of the health hazards and human rights violation, international organizations like WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA have been actively working with governments and communities to eliminate these harmful practices:

Over 30 countries in Africa and Middle East have enacted laws banning FGM with strict penalties including imprisonment of those conducting it.

Grassroots awareness programs educate people about health risks and empowers women to take a stand against the cultural taboos. Alternate initiation rituals respecting human rights are promoted.

Global health campaigns spread information through social media, warn migrant families moving to western countries against continuing the tradition on their daughters.

Support for rehabilitation and empowerment of survivors through counseling, skill training and financial aid to become self-reliant is being strengthened across countries.

However, changing deep-rooted socio-cultural norms requires consistent effort and time. Poverty, lack of education and social pressure within insular communities hinders complete elimination. Strict implementation of laws along with social reform remains crucial to end gender-based violence in the form of harmful traditional practices.

Way Forward

While progress has been made, more needs to be done to eradicate the practice of skin excision globally:

Enactment of specific laws banning all forms of skin excision including minor ones which presently escape legal action in some regions.

Involvement of community elders, religious leaders and men in propagating the message of respecting women’s rights and bodily integrity.

Inclusion of education on informed consent, sexuality and gender equality from a young age in national school curriculums.

Fund support for long-term psychosocial care and rehabilitation of survivors suffering health issues.

Strengthen cross-border collaboration between countries and coordination of policy implementation at the grassroots.

With multi-pronged efforts ranging from legislation to social reform, the hope is to see a world where no child’s rights are violated and women can make decisions about their own bodies freely. Ending harmful traditional practices is crucial for protecting human dignity and progressing towards gender justice globally.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it.