WHAT IS FGM?
Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, excision or genital cutting, comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the genital organs for non-medical reasons, mostly carried out between infancy and age 15.
The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women. Because it is usually performed without permission and often against will, FGM violates girls’ right to make important decisions about their sexual health.
Circumcision or "sunna": This involves the removal of the prepuce and the tip of the clitoris. This is the only operation which, medically, can be likened to male circumcision.
Excision or clitoridectomy: This involves the removal of the clitoris, and often also of the labia minora. It is the most common operation and is practised throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula.
Infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision: This is the most severe operation, involving excision plus the removal of the labia majora and the sealing of the two sides, through stitching or natural fusion of scar tissue. What is left is a very smooth surface, and a small opening to permit urination and the passing of menstrual blood. This artificial opening is sometimes no larger that the head of a match.
Introcision: This form of mutilation is practised specifically by the Pitta-Patta Aborigines from Australia: When a girl reaches puberty, the whole tribe - both sexes - assembles. The operator, an elderly man, enlarges the vaginal orifice by tearing it downward with three fingers bound with opposum string. In other districts, the perineum is split with a stone knife. This is usually followed by compulsory sexual intercourse with a number of young men. Introcision is also practised in Peru, in particular among the Conibos, a division of the Pano Indians in the North-East: as soon as a girl reaches maturity, she is intoxicated and subjected to mutilation in front of her community. The operation is performed by an elderly woman, using a bamboo knife. She cuts around the hymen from the vaginal entrance and severs the hymen from the labia, at the same time exposing the clitoris. Medicinal herbs are applied followed by the insertion into the vagina of a slightly moistened penis-shaped object made of clay.
Unclassified types of FGM: includes pricking, piercing or incision of clitoris and/or labia; stretching of clitoris and/or labia; cauterisation by burning of clitoris and surrounding tissues; scraping (angurya cuts) of the vaginal orifice or cutting (gishiri cuts) of the vagina; introduction of corrosive substances into the vagina to cause bleeding or herbs into the vagina with the aim of tightening or narrowing the vagina; any other procedures which fall under the definition of FGM given above.
KEY FACTS (WHO)
- Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
- The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
- Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
- More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated1.
- FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.
- FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.