Seven facts on female genital mutilation

On 6 February the whole world stood up against this flagrant violation of human rights. Here are some facts about this appalling tradition.

As explained from the World Health Organization (WHO) website: “Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes all procedures consisting of partial or total resection of the external female genitals, as well as other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Well, even if this procedure does not bring any health benefits and is extremely dangerous, (may cause bleeding, cysts, infections, urinary, sexual and menstrual problems, injuries to neighbouring genital tissues, infertility, increased risk of complications in childbirth, need for further surgical interventions, psychological disorders and even death), in certain parts of the world it is still practiced regularly.

Here are some facts demonstrating the seriousness of the problem.

1. In most cases, excision is practised in childhood, sometime between lactation and the age of 15. Sometimes it is also done in adulthood.

2. According to WHO, more than 200 million living women and girls have now been subjected to FGM.

3. There are four different types of female genital mutilation: infibulation, clitoridectomy, excision and other procedures injurious to external genitalia for non-medical purposes, such as piercing, incising, scraping or burning of the genital area.

4. The areas where genital mutilation is most prevalent are in Africa (specifically in the western, eastern and north-eastern regions), the Middle East and parts of Asia. Also amongst migrants from these areas, FGM is a global problem.

5. Who performs these excisions? In many cases the same doctors because it is believed that if done under medicalized conditions the procedure is safer. On other occasions, FGM is performed by people who tend to deliver or by traditional circumcisers.

6. Excision is considered internationally as a violation of the human rights of women and girls. This is an extreme form of discrimination against women. It also violated the rights to health, safety and physical integrity, the right not to be subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life in cases where the procedure resulted in death.

7. Why is it done? The reasons change according to the zones and the epoch but always have to do with socio-cultural factors that surround families and communities. Amongst the reasons for FGM are to ensure that a woman’s virginity is guaranteed before marriage and after marriage, that she does not feel the desire to have extramarital relations, since her libido is considerably reduced and depending on the type of excision she has undergone, having sex can be a very painful act, the belief that girls are pure and beautiful only if they remove from their body the parts that are considered impure, that is, the genitals, as something that is done following tradition and not going against what that society expects to be done.

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