Female Genital Mutilation as a Concern for Special Operations and Tactical Emergency Medical Support Medics

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Wittich AC 17(4). 14 - 17 (Journal Article)

Female genital mutilation (FGM), frequently called female genital cutting or female circumcision, is the intentional disfigurement of the external genitalia in young girls and women for the purpose of reducing libido and ensuring premarital virginity. This traditional, nontherapeutic procedure to suppress libido and prevent sexual intercourse before marriage has been pervasive in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and the Arabian peninsula for over 2,500 years. FGM permanently destroys the genital anatomy while frequently causing multiple and serious complications. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics proposed a classification system of FGM according to the specific genital anatomy removed and the extensiveness of genital disfigurement. Although it has been ruled illegal in most countries, FGM continues to be performed worldwide. With African, Asian, and Middle Eastern immigration to the United States and Europe, western countries are experiencing FGM in regions where these immigrants have concentrated. As deployments of Special Operations Forces (SOF) increase to regions in which FGM is pervasive, and as African, Asian, and Middle Eastern immigration to the United States increases, SOF and Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS) medics will necessarily be called upon to evaluate and treat complications resulting from FGM. The purpose of this article is to educate SOF/TEMS medical personnel about the history, geographic regions, classification of procedures, complications, and medical treatment of patients with FGM.

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