Thousands of girls and young women are victims of female genital mutilation (FGM). In most cases, this practice takes place before the age of 15, and brings no benefit to the health or well-being of the girls or young women.
FGM comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women.
Victims of FGM can suffer from serious short-term complications such as haemorrhages, urinary problems, cysts, infections, infertility and complications during childbirth, as well long-lasting consequences for their sexual and reproductive health and mental health.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
“It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.
“It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.”
FGM is a ritual practice deeply rooted in tradition, culture and religion in many parts of the world. It is estimated that, if the trend continues, by 2030 around 86 million girls worldwide will suffer some type of genital mutilation.
In December 2012, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation, and every February 6 marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
In July 2018, the Secretary General of the United Nations published a report titled Intensifying global efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation. It stresses that efforts to end this practice should be directed at women's groups and girls at greatest risk, including refugees and migrant women, women living in rural and remote communities and young girls.
Interviews with women victims of FGM
In July 2014, a study carried out by the University of Murcia gave a voice to nine women from Nigeria and Senegal who had been victims of FGM.
Most did not remember the procedure very well, as they were between 18 months and 14 years old, and those who did had vague recollections remained confused between the ritual festival and the immense pain of the intervention.
Other accounts were more vivid and painful. "They covered my head with a handkerchief and I walked with other women to a field,” recalled one of the women.
“They tricked me by telling me that we were going to eat things that I liked.
“Once there, they tied me up and held me among several women and they undressed me.
“I remember a lot of pain, blood and screams. Then they cured me with plants.”
Most of the interviewees recognised feeling little or no sexual pleasure in their relationships, in addition to great difficulties in reaching orgasm.
Finally, although almost all of them disagreed with genital mutilation, they generally accepted it and did not personally oppose it. According to researchers, this is primarily because it remains a taboo subject to discuss in their cultures. On the other hand, almost each of them were in favour of the FGM being punishible in many countries in the world.
The countries with the highest prevalence of FGM among girls and women aged 15 to 49 are Somalia (98%), Guinea (97%), Djibouti (93%) and Egypt (87%).