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Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) encompasses all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons1. Scientifically, this procedure has no health benefits for women and girls. In fact, this can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating. Later on, it can cause further complications such as cysts, infections, and issues during childbirth as well as increasing the risk of newborn deaths. This is only the beginning of physical impacts; the procedure can also create psychological trauma and mental scars for victims.

FGM is classified into four major types2:

  • Type I - Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris, and in very few cases, only the prepuce.
  • Type II- Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.
  • Type III - Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia with or without the removal of the clitoris.
  • Type IV - Other:  all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.

No matter how the procedure is practiced, FGM is still considered a violation of universal human rights principles3. It violates the base principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex. It also goes against the right to freedom from torture as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. It violates the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to physical integrity, and the rights of the child or woman. In worst cases, it even violates the right to life. Despite this, FGM procedures still persist in a number of countries around the world. It is estimated that 200 million girls and women worldwide have gone through some form of FGM3.

To better understand how to stop the practice of FGM, the reasons as to why it is practiced in the first place should be understood first. FGM is typically carried out for various cultural, religious as well as social reasons within families and communities. It is mistakenly believed that it is done in benefit of the girl, for example, as marriage preparations, or to preserve her virginity4. Others believe this will lower a woman’s libido and therefore help her resist “illicit” sexual acts5.  Some cultures also wrongly believe that an ‘intact’ woman is dirty or unclean, and that a woman must undergo FGM to enhance beauty and cleanliness6.

Thankfully, the prevalence of FGM has declined globally over the last 25 years7.  Today, a girl is three times less likely to undergo FGM than 30 years ago. However, sustaining these rates in the face of natural disasters and pandemics can be incredibly difficult. At current rates, an estimated 68 million girls face being cut by 20308. While there is potential in completely eliminating these harmful practices, there needs to be sustainable partnerships with men and boys set in place to help hasten the process. Future generations of women and girls need to be protected from these harmful practices, and it is far past the time to be acting to ensure the safety of women and girls worldwide.



1. Female genital mutilation. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation

2. Female genital mutilation. (2016, April 11). UNFPA Egypt. https://egypt.unfpa.org/en/node/22544

3. What is female genital mutilation? (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.unicef.org/stories/what-you-need-know-about-female-genital-mutilation

4. Female genital mutilation (FGM). (2017, October 18). Nhs.Uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/female-genital-mutilation-fgm/

5. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). (n.d.). Equality Now. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.equalitynow.org/female-genital-mutilation/

6. The reasons given for FGM: Culture and tradition. (1998). Womens Health Newsletter, 36, 7.

7. United Nations. (n.d.). International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. United Nations; United Nations. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.un.org/en/observances/female-genital-mutilation-day

8. What is FGM? (n.d.). End FGM. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.endfgm.eu/female-genital-mutilation/what-is-fgm/


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