What is Female Genital Mutilation?
6 February marks International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as being any and all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
- Type I: (clitoridectomy) this type consists of partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or its prepuce.
- Type II: (excision) the clitoris and labia minora are partially or totally removed, with or without excision of the labia majora.
- Type III: (infibulation or pharaonic type – the most severe forms of FGM) the procedure consists of narrowing the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or labia majora, with or without removal of the clitoris. The appositioning of the wound edges consists of stitching or holding the cut areas together for a certain period of time (for example, girls’ legs are bound together), to create the covering seal. A small opening is left for urine and menstrual blood to escape. An infibulation must be opened either through penetrative sexual intercourse or surgery.
- Type IV: This type consists of all other procedures to the genitalia of women for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
FGM is not a religious practice, but a tradition which is perpetuated by social norms, and is usually upheld as a tradition by the community. The WHO estimates that there are 200 million people alive today who have undergone FGM. According to the WHO, immediate complications resulting from FGM include “severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, tetanus or infection, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissue, wound infection, urinary infection, fever, and septicemia. Haemorrhage and infection can be severe enough to cause death. Long-term consequences include complications during childbirth, anaemia, the formation of cysts and abscesses, keloid scar formation, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), sexual dysfunction, hypersensitivity of the genital area and increased risk of HIV transmission, as well as psychological effects.”