What is FGM?

-‘FGM is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or non-therapeutic reasons:

1. ‘Sunna’ circumcision is the removal of the prepuce and/or the tip of the clitoris:

2. Clitoridectomy, or excision is the removal of the entire clitoris and adjacent labia:

3. Infibulation (pharaonic circumcision) is the removal of the clitoris and entire labia and then joining the scraped sides of the vulva across the vagina using thorns or catgut, leaving only a small opening for the passage of urine and menstrual blood.’

What consequences does FGM bring?

FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue.

Long-term consequences can include:

  • •.      recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections;
  • •.      cysts;
  • •.      infertility;
  • •.      an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths;

the need for later surgeries. For example, the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening (type 3 above) needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth. Sometimes it is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing and repeated both immediate and long-term risks.

When did FGM begin?

-The practice of female genital mutilation/circumcision has dated back to ancient times. Female circumcision has existed for over 4,000-5,000 years originating in a period predating God’s covenant with Abraham to circumcise his people. The practice began in Egypt and was frequently performed by the ancient cultures of the Phoenicians, Hittites, and the ancient Egyptians

Read more:

-‘There is no way of knowing the origins of FGM, it appears in many different cultures, from Australian aboriginal tribes to different African societies’ – medical historian David Gollaher

-A Greek papyrus dated 163 B.C. mentioned the operation being performed on girls in Memphis, Egypt, at the age when they received their dowries, supporting theories that FGM originated as a form of initiation of young women.

– Historically, the first mention of male and female circumcision appears in the writings by the Greek geographer Strabo, who visited Egypt around 25 B.C.

Who is affected by FGM?

-It is estimated that approximately 100-140 million African women have undergone FGM worldwide and each year, a further 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of the practice in Africa alone. Most of them live in African countries, a few in the Middle East and Asian countries, and increasingly in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and Canada.

Procedures are mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15, and occasionally on adult women. In Africa, more than three million girls have been estimated to be at risk for FGM annually.

About 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM. In Africa, about 101 million girls age 10 years and above are estimated to have undergone FGM.

The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and among migrants from these areas.

Where is FGM practiced now?

-The majority of cases of FGM are carried out in 28 African countries. In some countries, (e.g. Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan), prevalence rates can be as high as 98 per cent. In other countries, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Togo and Senegal, the prevalence rates vary between 20 and 50 per cent. It is more accurate however, to view FGM as being practised by specific ethnic groups, rather than by a whole country, as communities practising FGM straddle national boundaries. FGM takes place in parts of the Middle East, i.e. in Yemen, Oman, Iraqi Kurdistan, amongst some Bedouin women in Israel, and was also practised by the Ethiopian Jews, and it is unclear whether they continue with the practice now that they are settled in Israel. FGM is also practised among Bohra Muslim populations in parts of India and Pakistan, and amongst Muslim populations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

As a result of immigration and refugee movements, FGM is now being practiced by ethnic minority populations in other parts of the world, such as USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. FORWARD estimates that as many as 6,500 girls are at risk of FGM within the UK every year.

Why is FGM still being used?

-The roots of FGM are complex and numerous; indeed, it has not been exactly possible to determine when or where the tradition of FGM originated.

The justifications given for the practise are multiple and reflect the ideological and historical situation of the societies in which it has developed. Reasons cited generally relate to tradition, power inequalities and the ensuing compliance of women to the dictates of their communities

Reasons include:

  • •.               custom and tradition
  • •.               religion; in the mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement
  • •.               preservation of virginity/chastity
  • •.               social acceptance, especially for marriage
  • •.               hygiene and cleanliness
  • •.               increasing sexual pleasure for the male
  • •.               family honour
  • •.               a sense of belonging to the group and conversely the fear of social exclusion
  • •.               enhancing fertility

Many women believe that FGM is necessary to ensure acceptance by their community; they are unaware that FGM is not practised in most of the world.

How can we help?


–       1. FORWARD –

–       2. STOPFGMNOW –


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