101

FGM 101

A young Indonesian girl cries as she undergoes FGM.
A young Indonesian girl cries as she undergoes FGM. (Photo: ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) includes all procedures involving partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Most girls who have undergone FGM are cut between the ages of four and 12. The World Health Organization regards FGM as a worldwide public health issue due to its harmful physical and mental effects.

Short-term complications can include hemorrhaging, pain, shock, and even death, while long-term complications include formation of cysts, problems with sexual intercourse and giving birth, chronic pelvic infection and sterility.

The trauma of FGM often lasts a lifetime and can cause depression and anxiety, among other psychological problems.

FGM reduces or eliminate sexual pleasure for the victim.

 

Who Is Affected

Every year an estimated three million girls undergo FGM, with 200 million girls and women alive today that have been undergone the procedure. The procedure is mainly practiced in Africa as well as in Muslim-majority countries and immigrant communities in Europe, the United States and Canada.

While FGM is not mentioned in the Quran, it is mentioned in many seminal Islamic sources and by many leading Islamic leaders as a praiseworthy practice.

 

Types of FGM

Type I: the removal of the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris) with or without removal of the entire clitoris (sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals)

Type II: excision of the clitoris with labia minora and partial or total labia majora

Type III: the removal part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/ narrowing of vaginal opening, leaving a small opening for urine and menstrual blood (infibulation)

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 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

 

Why Are Girls and Women Cut?

FGM is a violation of basic human rights and means of removing a woman’s sexual freedom and physical and mental integrity.

FGM is performed due to religious and cultural reasons. It is a means of controlling a woman by ensuring her virginity and as a safeguard against promiscuous behavior.

FGM is used in certain cultures as a traditional rite of passage. Women who have been cut are considered “clean” and “pure” in some cultures. In these cultures, the practice is often perpetuated by women themselves.

 

Eradicating FGM

FGM is still legal in 18 countries. Ten European countries have passed legislation criminalizing FGM and, in addition to the  U.S. federal law criminalizing it, 20 American states have legislation to prevent girls from being transported to another country to have FGM performed on them.

There are several non- profits, organizations, programs and efforts in order to try and put an end to FGM and educate the public on its danger and prevalance.

For more information, see Clarion Project’s in-depth fact sheet on FGM.

 

Campaigns to Eliminate FGM

End FGM: European Campaign

Daughters of Eve

Equality Now

 

 

 

 

AC
Alicia Cherem
Alicia Cherem is a contributor to Clarion Project.