Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision, is a harmful practice that involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is recognized as a violation of human rights and a severe form of gender-based violence.

Prevalence and Types

FGM is prevalent in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) encompasses several different procedures that involve the partial removal of the clitoris to complete removal of external genitalia and narrowing of the vaginal opening or other injury to the female genital organs for non- medical reasons.

There are four main types of FGM, as classified by the World Health Organization (WHO)

Type I: Clitoridectomy (Partial or Total Removal of the Clitoris)

This involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).

In some cases, only the clitoral hood or the visible part of the clitoris is removed.

Type I FGM is the mildest form and is also known as clitoridectomy.

Type II: Excision (Partial or Total Removal of the Clitoris and Labia Minora)

This involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva).

Sometimes, the labia majora (the outer folds of the vulva) may also be removed or altered.

Type II FGM is more severe than Type I and is often referred to as excision.

Type III: Infibulation (Narrowing of the Vaginal Opening)

This is the most severe form of FGM and involves the narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, often by cutting and repositioning the labia minora and/or labia majora.

The clitoris may also be removed entirely or partially.

The sealed opening leaves only a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood.

Type III FGM is also known as infibulation or pharaonic circumcision.

Type IV: Other Harmful Procedures to the Female Genitalia

This category includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical reasons, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing.

Type IV FGM encompasses a wide range of practices that vary in severity and cultural context.

Each type of FGM carries serious health risks and can have lasting physical, psychological, sexual and social consequences for affected individuals. It is important to recognize that FGM is a violation of human rights and has no medical benefits. Efforts to eliminate FGM require comprehensive approaches that address cultural norms, empower communities, and promote gender equality and women’s rights.

Reasons for FGM

Various cultural, social, and religious factors contribute to the continuation of FGM. It is often linked to traditions and beliefs surrounding femininity, modesty, and marriageability. In some communities, FGM is considered a rite of passage into womanhood and a prerequisite for marriage. Additionally, misconceptions about hygiene, purity, and religious obligations perpetuate the practice.

Health Consequences

FGM has devastating health consequences for girls and women, both immediate and long-term. Immediate complications include severe pain, hemorrhage, infection, and even death.

Long-term complications can include chronic pain, urinary problems, menstrual difficulties, sexual dysfunction, psychological trauma, and complications during childbirth, such as obstetric fistula and neonatal death.

Effects and Complications of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Immediate Effects

a. Severe pain during the procedure.

b. Excessive bleeding (hemorrhage).

c. Risk of infection due to unsterile instruments and conditions.

d. Shock due to pain, bleeding, or psychological trauma.

e. Injury to surrounding genital tissues.

Short-term Complications

a. Infection of the genital area, including urinary tract infections.

b. Difficulty urinating or painful urination.

c. Swelling of the genital tissue.

d. Fever and other signs of systemic infection.

e. Wound healing complications.

f. Psychological trauma, including anxiety and depression.

Long-term Health Effects

a. Chronic pelvic pain.

b. Painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea).

c. Painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia).

d. Sexual dysfunction, including reduced sexual desire and pleasure.

e. Increased risk of urinary problems, such as urinary incontinence.

f. Scar tissue formation and genital deformities.

g. Complications during childbirth, including prolonged labor, perineal tears, and obstructed labor.

h. Increased risk of childbirth-related injuries, such as obstetric fistula.

i. Psychological consequences, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and depression.

j. Negative impact on reproductive health, including infertility and pregnancy complications.

Social and Psychological Consequences

a. Stigmatization and social exclusion within communities.

b. Reduced marriageability and social acceptance.

c. Loss of trust in healthcare systems and providers.

d. Violation of human rights and bodily autonomy.

e. Perpetuation of gender inequality and discrimination.

f. Interference with sexual and reproductive rights.

g. Intergenerational transmission of the practice and perpetuation of harmful gender norms.

Female Genital Mutilation is a deeply entrenched practice with severe consequences for the health and well-being of girls and women. Eradicating FGM requires approach that addresses cultural norms, legal frameworks, healthcare systems, and gender inequality. By raising awareness, advocating for policy change, and empowering affected communities, we can work towards ending this harmful practice and ensuring the rights and dignity of all individuals.

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