Important Facts About Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision, comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Typically carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade, FGM is conducted from days after birth to puberty and beyond.
Procedures differ according to the country or ethnic group.
Type 1: Often referred to as clitoridectomy, this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals), and in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
Type 2: Often referred to as excision, this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without excision of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva ).
Type 3: Often referred to as infibulation, this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy).
Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
Deinfibulation refers to the practice of cutting open the sealed vaginal opening in a woman who has been infibulated, which is often necessary for improving health and well-being as well as to allow intercourse or to facilitate childbirth.
The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women and can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
Immediate complications can include:
excessive bleeding (haemorrhage)
genital tissue swelling
infections e.g., tetanus
wound healing problems
injury to surrounding genital tissue
Long-term consequences can include:
urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections);
vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections)
menstrual problems (painful menstruation, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.)
scar tissue and keloid
sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.)
increased risk of childbirth complications (difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, caesarean section, need to resuscitate the baby, etc.) and newborn deaths
need for later surgeries: for example, the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening (type 3) needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth (deinfibulation).
Sometimes genital tissue is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing both immediate and long-term risks
psychological problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, etc.).
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls.
The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.