A harmful traditional practice,
125 million faces.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
What is FGM/C?
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is a harmful traditional practice with strong ancestral sociocultural roots. The World Health Organisation defines it as all procedures involving partial or total removal or injury to the female genital organs, for non-therapeutic reasons.
Internationally recognized as an extreme violation of human rights, FGM/C perpetuates gender inequality and discrimination, seriously affecting the health and well-being of girls and women. UNICEF estimates that more than 125 million girls and women have been subjected to the practice, with over 30 million girls at risk in the next decade.
Why is FGM/C practiced?
The origin of FGM/C is unclear, although the practice has been embedded in a deep symbolic meaning. In many societies, FGM/C has become the physical proof that confirms that a girl has been initiated through a rite of passage to adulthood, confirming her femininity and ensuring that she has received all the necessary teachings to be worthy to belong to the community. Those who defend FGM/C perpetuation argue that it is fundamental to preserve ethnic and gender identity, protect femininity, ensure purity and virginity, guarantee the "family's honour", assure marriageability, and maintain cleanliness and health.
FGM/C is considered as a critical component of the process of socialisation and essential in the distinction between sexes as necessary opposites in the community, and it is linked with the two core values that shape African life: sense of community and sex complementarity.
In many Muslim communities, it is practised for religious reasons, believing it to be a Sunnah. However, the practice is not necessarily connected with Islam, as many Muslims do not practice it, while communities such as the Christian Coptic and Jewish "falasha" do.
Where is FGM/C practiced?
FGM/C is mainly performed in 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of the Middle East and Asia (Yemen, Oman, and Northern Iraq, as well as parts of India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, among others). However, with the migratory movements, what once was local is now global: FGM/C is in Diaspora and it is found in Europe, Australia, United States of America, etc. where migrants bring along their cultures.
What are the different types of FGM/C?
The World Health Organization classified FGM/C into four types, dependent on severity:
- Type I: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or prepuce (clitoridectomy);
- Type II: partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision);
- Type III: narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation);
- Type IV: all other harmful procedures done to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes (e.g., pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, dry sex and cauterization).
What are the consequences of FGM/C?
All types of FGM/C have consequences that undermine the health and well-being of newborns, girls, and women throughout their lives. The practice has a negative impact on child and maternal health, increasing the risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths.