Posted by on June 21, 2013 - 8:32am

Surfacing research proves the Sub-Saharan African traditions of Female Genital Mutilation and Female Genital Cutting (FGM/FGC) lead to long-term health consequences. Such health problems are found to impact the delivery and health of newborns.  Researchers and anthropologists from the Autonomus University of Barcelona collected data from 588 females in The Gambia.  Data were carefully gathered through questionnaires and physical examinations of the female patients, and analyzed with 95% confidence intervals. The results showed that 75.6% of the women had undergone FGM or FGC, and these women had a significantly higher prevalence of health problems including dysmenorrhea, vulvar or vaginal pain, fibrosis, keloid, synechia, and sexual dysfunction.  Furthermore, research showed these women were four times more likely to experience delivery complications such as perineal tear, obstructed labor, episiotomy, cesarean-necessitated delivery, and stillbirth.

The Foundation for Research on Women’s Health reported that seven of The Gambia’s nine ethnic groups practice FGM or FGC on girls between the ages of 10 and 15.  Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting occurs in four types.  Type I is a partial clitoridectomy, Type II is a full removal of the clitoris, Type III is a partial or full excision of the external genitalia, and Type IV is vaginal sealing.  While FGM and FGC are not common in many parts of the world, The Gambia sees these practices as rooted in customs and traditions dependent upon ethnic, religious, and cultural foundations.  Culturally, these practices are seen as “rites of passage” into womanhood, and guarantee a woman’s sexual purity, as pleasure is removed from the woman’s body.

Alternatively, FGM and FGC have been internationally recognized as violations of women’s rights and cruel discriminations against women.  Furthermore, since these practices are almost always carried out on minors, sometimes without parental consent, issues of children’s rights also come into play.  The World Health Organization characterized these practices as violating “a person’s rights to health, security, and physical integrity” as well as “the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” especially when these practices frequently lead to death or long-term health problems.

While it is difficult to impose regulations on cultural traditions so foreign to the Western world, it is important to document the surfacing research that points to the long-term hazards that accompany these practices.  The next steps should be educational outreaches informing the women of The Gambia of the dangers involved with FGM and FGC. This way, they may best make decisions to protect their reproductive health while preserving and respecting their cultural identity.

Sources: Dovepress, The UN Refugee Agency, and The World Health Organization


Posted by on February 28, 2013 - 12:03pm

Today, February 28, the U.S. House of Representatives  voted to pass the Senate’s bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Initially, the House bill excluded specific protections for gay, bisexual or transgender victims of domestic abuse — eliminating “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from a list of “underserved populations” that face barriers to receiving victim services — and stripped certain provisions regarding Native American women on reservations.  Representative Gwen Moore from Wisconsin, and a victim of domestic and sexual violence herself, advocated the need to pass the Senate version and her efforts prevailed.   This is a significant victory for all women.

To read more visit:

Posted by on March 15, 2012 - 11:13am

Margaret Sanger

In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic, and is quoted as saying:   "Women must have her freedom, the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she will be a mother and how many children she will have.  Regardless of what man's attitude may be, the problem is hers--and before it can be his, it is hers alone.  She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born.  As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it."   This was said nearly a century ago..wonder what she would say to today's politicians?

Posted by on March 1, 2012 - 12:35pm

BULLETIN:   Our previous blog discussed this amendment.   We're delighted to report that Senate has voted 51-48 against an amendment by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would allow insurers to deny coverage of health services -- such as birth control -- if an employer objected on religious or moral grounds.

Posted by on March 1, 2012 - 11:03am

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that over 20 million American women in private health insurance plans have already gained access to at least one free preventive service because of the health care law.  Without financial barriers like co-pays and deductibles, women are better able to access potentially life-saving services, and cancers are caught earlier, chronic diseases are managed and hospitalizations are prevented.

A proposal (the Blunt Amendment)  being considered in the Senate today would allow employers that have no religious affiliation to exclude coverage of any health service, no matter how important, in the health plan they offer to their workers.  This proposal isn't limited to contraception nor is it limited to any preventive service. Any employer could restrict access to any service they say they object to on moral grounds. This is dangerous and wrong. To read more about both sides of this debate click HERE.

If you feel strongly on this issue, call you Senator NOW!

Posted by on August 16, 2011 - 10:08am

Gloria Steinem

Last night I watched Gloria:  In Her Own Words -a  HBO documentary on feminist Gloria Steinem.    Young women today could learn to appreciate how far women have come in the last 50 years  by watching it.   Even I forgot how 'primitive'  life was for women in the 1960s.  We went to college but rarely maintained a career. Instead most women found a husband and stayed home, wore aprons and dresses, and cooked and cleaned.    Gloria Steinem came from a broken family, a father who was a dreamer, a mother who could never achieve her dreams (she was a writer) and was affected mentally as a result.   Gloria learned to tap dance in case she could find her way to fame on the stage!  Young Gloria learned early how to be a caretaker and despite all that was educated at Smith College and became a leader in the feminist movement of the 1960-70's and continues to support feminist causes in her elder years.    The documentary film revisited  the early days of the feminist movement.  Here are a few tidbits:

When Gloria moved to New York after college she could not rent an apartment under her own name.   She found a job but they only let her write about things like fashion and cooking.   The term women's liberation became the mantra and the word 'feminist' was not well defined.   Feminists were tagged homosexuals by conservative leaders like Phyllis Schafly.

She went undercover to go through the audition process to become a Playboy Bunny and, unexpectedly, actually made it all the way.  She wrote about her experience and how poorly the bunnies were treated.  Even then she was criticized by the male dominated media because she was so pretty.   How could someone so pretty be smart, too!   There was a comic written about her in a most derogatory way that even brought her to tears.  She was criticized for not being married (until she was in her late 60s).  The use of the  salutation "Ms." was not readily accepted and even mocked by highly visible political leaders.

She hooked up with feminist Bella Abzug of New York , an elected official, and became more political.  In fact, she admitted that Bella became her surrogate mother. They led the fight for abortion rights and got more women to run as political candidates. One third of the delegates to the 1972 Democratic convention were women due to the feminist movement!  Feminists tried to pass ERA (equal rights amendment)  so women could constitutionally  be defined as equal but it was never passed.  Instead, various laws were enacted that addressed individual issues as they were raised.   When she created Ms. Magazine respected media pundits like Harry Reasoner predicted it would only last 5 editions at most.   The magazine still exists today and there was a clip of Harry on the air apologizing!

I could go on but suggest you try to catch the film on HBO.   What are the issues women care about today?    We still don't earn as much as men do in many areas.   Leadership in academia, medicine and business is male dominated. ERA?   Some of the issues we fought for are being threatened by the conservative right.....often led by women.    Is it time for another movement?  Who is ready to lead the charge? Who is the next Gloria or Bella?