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Worldwide: the horror of Female Genital Mutilation


The Crude and Cruel Practice of Female Genital Mutilation.

Guest post by Plan UK.

More than 100 million girls and women around the world have endured some type of female genital mutilation (FGM), according to the World Health Organization.

It is estimated that more than two million females undergo FGM each year.

The largest percentage of FGM takes place in Africa. In Somalia, one in every 100 women giving birth dies due to FGM. Although illegal in Egypt, 91 percent of women aged 15-49 have been subject to FGM.

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

FGM is when part or all of a woman’s external female genitalia are removed or purposely altered or injured for non-medical reasons.

Although sometimes referred to as “female circumcision,” the procedure is far more involved [than male circumcision], can be crudely carried out, and carries lifelong health and psychological complications.

There are four main types of FGM:

1. The retractable piece of skin covering part of the clitoris is removed.

2. The clitoris and some or all of the labia minora are removed.

3. Part or all of the external genitalia is removed and the vaginal opening is stitched.

4. Piercing, cutting, or stretching the clitoris and/or labia; burning the clitoris and surrounding tissue; scraping tissue around the vaginal opening; cutting the vagina; using corrosive substances or herbs in the vagina to cause it to bleed, narrow, or tighten.

FGM is often performed by laypersons without proper medical equipment or support.

Health Risks of Female Genital Mutilation

FGM is often carried out in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, resulting in a host of medical problems, including:

– hemorrhage

– shock

– pelvic infection

– recurring vaginal and urinary tract infections

– painful intercourse

– infertility

– difficult childbirth, maternal and fetal death during childbirth

– lifelong disability

– death due to complications of FGM

Why Does Female Genital Mutilation Persist?

Some cultures view FGM as a religious requirement or as necessary to secure a girl’s prospects for marriage. The practice is sometimes done for “hygienic” reasons, or as a way to ensure virginity and preserve a perceived feminine ideal.

In cultures where women are held in low regard, FGM is a way to make sexual relations less enjoyable, thereby reducing the odds of premarital and extramarital sex.

In some places, societal pressure is strong enough to overcome the objections of parents who do not wish to subject their daughters to FGM.

Safeguarding Children

FGM is illegal in the UK and a growing number of countries around the world. It is also illegal to take a child out of the UK to have the procedure performed elsewhere.

Fear and anxiety about an upcoming trip out of the country, especially when her family belongs to a cultural group known for FGM, may signal a girl at risk for FGM. Local and national child protection authorities should be notified of suspected cases of FGM.

Education is key to keeping girls safe from this cruel procedure – education of the general public and of girls, who may be unaware of the lifelong implications of FGM.

It is essential that midwives and medical professionals learn how to care for girls and women at risk of FGM, and for those who have had already the procedure.

Plan UK works with community and religious authorities to build awareness about the risks of FGM, and to provide education and support to girls and women who are living with the consequences of FGM.

Even where FGM is the cultural norm, it is a clear violation of girls’ bodies and of the basic human right to control one’s own body and one’s own life.

For more information and to find out what you can do to help, click here.

  1. Everyone in the UK can do a very simple thing to help awareness of #FGM along. Please just sign this HM Govt e-petition to STOP #FGM in Britain: (you can sign until 26 June 2013.)

    Here’s the story behind how we got this e-petition started:

    Thanks so much for this article, and for any support with the petition which people can give.

  2. Hi Hilary,
    I’m writing a supporting piece to go on WVoN about FGM in the UK, so I will link to your petition, and the article in it. XXX

  3. Hi Hilary, I’ve mentioned your campaign and petition in my new piece, which will be up on the site later this week. I’ve quoted a bit from your blog too, hope that’s ok. Just followed you on twitter, so will be sure to tweet you the link once the piece is live. Naomi x

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