How many types of female genital mutilation are there?

The International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation is celebrated worldwide on 6 February. This cruel and misogynist practice is still carried out in many parts of the world, especially in Africa (specifically in the western, eastern and north-eastern regions), in the Middle East and in some areas of Asia. In recent years, due to a heightened level of migration, FGM has travelled to other parts of the world including the United States and the United Kingdom.

Despite its global recognition as a gross violation of the human rights of women and girls, WHO counts more than 200 million women and girls alive who have undergone FGM.

The practice is mostly done in childhood, sometime between infancy and adolescence, and occasionally in adulthood.

It is estimated that more than 3 million girls are at risk of FGM each year.

The World Health Organization distinguishes four types of FGM/C. They are as follows:

- Clitoridectomy. This is the removal of all or part of the clitoris, and rarely just the foreskin (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).

- Excision. This procedure involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora (folds on the inside of the vulva) and/or labia majora (folds on the outside).

- Infibulation. This name refers to the technique of narrowing the vaginal opening, which is sealed by cutting, repositioning, and sometimes sewing the labia majora and minora together. It may include removal of the clitoris.

- Other procedures in which the external female genitalia are severely abused for no medical reason. We are talking about perforation, incision, scraping or cauterization of the area.

The WHO also refers to disinfibulation, which would be the cut made in a woman who has previously undergone infibulation to open the opening of her vagina. This is usually done to improve her health and well-being as well as to make intercourse and childbirth possible.

Not surprisingly, as these are true savages, all types of FGM can have serious consequences for the woman and even lead to her death.

Immediate complications that can occur include severe pain, bleeding, inflammation of genital tissues, fever, infections such as tetanus, urinary problems, injury to neighbouring genital tissues, shock and death.

The serious long-term consequences of these aberrant interventions include urinary tract infections, vaginal problems, menstrual problems, scar tissue and keloids, sexual problems, increased risk of complications in childbirth and neonatal mortality, the need for further surgical interventions (such as disinfibulation) as well as psychological disorders and health complications of female genital mutilation.

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