6 Facts about Female Genital Mutilation
More than 200 million women and girls around the world
are living with the results of the dangerous practice of female genital
mutilation (FGM/C), also known as cutting, according to a report by UNICEF.
In the next decade, 30 million more are
at risk of being mutilated. The United
Nations created the International Day of Zero Tolerance for
Female Genital Mutilation, observed every year on February 6, to stop the
harmful practice to girls and women.
The following are some female genital mutilation facts
and frequently asked questions.
1. What is female genital mutilation (FGM)?
Female genital mutilation is defined as the removal of
part or all of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is also
called female circumcision and cutting. The procedure is most often done to
2. What are the consequences of FGM?
Often carried out under primitive and
unsanitary conditions without anaesthetic, FGM can cause severe pain, bleeding,
and swelling that may prevent passing urine or faeces. In the long term, it
leads to chronic pelvic infections, urinary tract infections, and birth
complications for mothers and children. The horror of the event — including
being physically restrained against their will — affects many women for
years. There are no health benefits from the procedure that is not medically necessary or condoned by the
World Health Organisation, most governments, and reputable medical
3. Where is FGM practised?
FGM is practiced in 30 countries in
Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Sudan
account for about 42 percent of all cases. Migrants have carried the
traditional practice with them to other countries in Europe and the Americas.
4. Why is FGM still practised?
Most women and men familiar with FGM say they would
like to see it end, but there is social pressure to continue cutting. Mothers,
fathers, extended family, and community leaders may force or coerce girls and
young women to be cut so that they will be accepted as “clean” and ready for
5. There is a trend to having the procedure done in a
clinic. Isn’t that better than cutting in unsanitary conditions?
It is better not to be done at all. The long-term effects
of FGM are just as harmful either way. The
“medicalisation” of FGM serves to legitimize a harmful practice that is also a
violation of human rights.
6. How can we end FGM?
Most of the 30 countries where FGM is practiced have
legislated against it. However, until social norms change, the practice
continues in secret. World Vision and other organisations are educating and
empowering girls and their communities to end FGM.
There’s strong evidence that it can be eliminated in one generation.