From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Adventists Speak Out on Female Genital Mutilation

From "Beckett, John" <>
Date 26 Apr 2000 11:41:13

ANN Bulletin
Adventist News Network
Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters
April 25, 2000
Adventists Speak Out on Female Genital Mutilation
Silver Spring, MD, USA .... [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

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. [Bettina

Contact Information: 
Communications Department
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600

Phone: 301-680-6300

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