Female Genital Mutilation, also known as female genital cutting (FGC) includes all procedures involving the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is generally practiced on girls between the ages of four and twelve. In some cultures it is performed as early as a few days after birth or shortly prior to marriage. It is one of the most severe forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
What are the major types of FGM?
Type I: Clitoridectomy, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris or the prepuce.
Type II: Excision, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without the excision of the labia majora or the prepuce.
Type III: Infibulation, which is the narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris.
Type IV: Pricking, piercing or incising of the clitoris and/or labia; stretching of the clitoris and/or labia; cauterization by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissue ; scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal orifice or cutting of the vagina; introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or for the purpose of tightening.
Where is FGM practiced?
FGM is practiced in more than 28 countries in Africa, parts of the Middle East, South East Asia, Europe, America and other countries where migrants from FGM-affected communities live.
What reason do the communities that practice FGM give for engaging in the practice?
There are a number of social and economic reasons given:
- As a rite of passage to signal that a girl has now become a woman
- To reduce the sexual desire of girls and women
- To follow a religious requirement (although there is no evidence that FGM is supported by any religion)
- To make girl and women clean
- To keep the cultural identity of a community
- To enhance men’s sexual pleasure
- To prepare a girl for marriage. Once FGM is performed a girl is seen as being ready for marriage. There is a link between FGM and child marriage.
- It is believed that FGM ensures a girl’s virginity, making sure she has not had sex with anyone before marriage. This may make men more willing to marry her and pay higher bride price for her.
- FGM provides circumcisers with a source of income. In some communities traditional leaders and chiefs are paid to give permission for girls to be cut.