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GAMBIA: Genital mutilation increases infections, researchers say

Women who have undergone female genital mutilation in Gambia have a higher prevalence of bacterial and viral infections, says a recent study of 1,348 women.

"Female genital cutting (FGC) is associated with higher levels of bacterial vaginosis and herpes simplex two virus (HSV2)," said the December 2001 study, which was conducted on women from 15 to 54 years old.

It added: "HSV2 is a known co-factor for HIV transmission. The higher prevalence of HSV2 suggests that cut women may be at greater risk of HIV infection."

The researchers, however, found "no association between FGC and commonly cited negative consequences - damage to the perineum and anus, vulval tumours, painful sex, infertility, prolapse and other reproductive tract infections".

Some 58 percent of the women were found to have undergone FGC and the researchers found that the majority of those who had, wanted the practise to continue. Almost all those who had not undergone FGC, wanted it stopped.

The researchers said the campaign against FGC should adopt a human rights-based approach. They recommended that it concentrate on women’s reproductive rights, rather than focus solely on the damaging health effects of the practice.

"A focus on damaging health consequences is vulnerable to the argument to medicalise the operation. Eradication of FGC should be addressed as one of the many rights of women and girls, especially in societies where serious discrimination occurs," the study noted.

Globally, two million girls and women undergo FGC each year, the researchers said.

The study, titled ‘The long-term reproductive health consequences of female genital cutting in rural Gambia: a community-based survey’, was carried out in the central region of Farafenni by researchers from Gambia and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Theme (s): Gender Issues, Other,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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