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FGM influences Psychological Health of Girls

26 Jan

Research highlights Psychological Trauma of FGM/C 

14/01/2012 – A new study out of Iraq finds evidence to support the suspicion that girls who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting are prone to mental disorders and psychological trauma.

The study shows what many psychologists have long suspected but had little research to confirm: girls who have undergone (FGM/C) are prone to mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The research was conducted by Jan Ilhan Kizilhan of the University of Freiburg, an expert in psychotraumatology – a type of psychotherapy for people who have suffered extreme trauma. The results of his research were published in the April-June 2011 edition of the European Journal of Psychiatry.

His research from among a group of 79 circumcised girls if northern Iraq  found rates of PTSD at around 44 percent, depression at 34 percent, anxiety at 46 percent and mental disorders whose symptoms are unexplainable physical illnesses at around 37 percent.

The girls who were included in his study were between the ages of 8 and 14, and to the best of his knowledge had not suffered any other traumatic events beyond FGM/C.

These rates were up to seven times higher than among non-circumcised girls from the same region and were comparable to rates among people who suffered early childhood abuse.

The tradition of female genital mutilation, or FGM, has survived for centuries in this deeply traditional region of northern Iraq. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), FGM is the “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.”

“The tragedy is that FGM is perpetuated by mothers, aunts and other women who love and want the best for their children,” said a report by international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW).  The study added that such women see the practice as necessary for their daughters to grow up as “marriageable” and “respectable” members of society.

Estimates of the prevalence of FGM/C in Iraqi Kurdistan vary wildly depending on the province, but surveys have indicated the overall figure could be around 40 percent.

Kizihan stated that although the region is home to five million people, it has just 13 psychologists and only one with expertise in psychotherapy.

It is estimated that more than 100 million women and girls have been subjected to FGM/C worldwide, and in some societies it can signify a woman’s eligibility for marriage. In some instances, it is used to reduce sexual desire. In other cases, misguided medical or health beliefs are cited.