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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Facts

Hey SHAKE Family,

It's been a while. We've missed you!

Today we bring to you a very important topic and we hope we can shed light on something that can have grave consequences for women and girls but that is not talked about enough. FGM.

200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM. At current rates, additional estimates of 68 million girls face being cut by 2030.

FGM is often overlooked but it is a global issue and with numbers like this, it's a bigger problem than many think.

FGM is a violation of girls’ and women’s fundamental human rights.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure performed on a woman or girl to alter or injure her genitalia for non-medical reasons. It most often involves the partial or total removal of her external genitalia. FGM is a violation of girls’ and women’s fundamental human rights.

FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Why is it practiced?

The practice has no health benefits for girls and women.

In many of the countries where FGM is performed, it is a deeply entrenched social norm rooted in gender inequality where violence against girls and women is socially acceptable.

The reasons behind the practice vary. In some cases, it is seen as a rite of passage into womanhood, while others see it as a way to suppress a woman’s sexuality. Many communities practice genital mutilation in the belief that it will ensure a girl's future marriage or family honor. Some associate it with religious beliefs, although no religious scriptures require it.

The practice has no health benefits for girls and women.

Who is at risk?

More than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually.

FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and adolescence, and occasionally on adult women. More than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually.

More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice, according to data from 30 countries where population data exist.

The practice is mainly concentrated in the Western, Eastern, and North-Eastern regions of Africa, in some countries the Middle East and Asia, as well as among migrants from these areas. FGM is therefore a global concern.

It is usually performed by traditional practitioners using sharp objects such as razor blade, knife or broken glass. There is also evidence of an increase in the performance of FGM by medical personnel.

Medicalising the practice does not make it safer, as it still removes and damages healthy and normal tissue and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

What are the types of FGM? 

Female genital mutilation is classified by World Health Organization (WHO) into 4 major types.

Type 1 The partial or total removal of the clitoral glans (the external and visible part of the clitoris, which is a sensitive part of the female genitals), and/or the prepuce/ clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoral glans).

Type 2 This is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without removal of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva).

Type 3

Also known as infibulation, this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoral prepuce/clitoral hood and glans (Type I FGM).

Type 4

This includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

How does FGM affect the health of women and girls?

FGM has serious implications for the sexual and reproductive health of girls and women. the effects of FGN depends on a number of factors , including the type performed, the hygiene conditions under which it is performed, the expertise of the practitioner, amount of resistance and general health condition of the girl or woman undergoing the procedure. Complications may occur in all types of FGM, but are most frequent with infibulation.

The complications can be immediate or long term.

Immediate complications can include:

  • Severe pain

  • Excessive bleeding (hemorrhage)

  • Genital tissue swelling

  • Fever

  • Infections e.g., tetanus

  • Urinary problems

  • Wound healing problems

  • Injury to surrounding genital tissue

  • Shock

  • Death.

Long-term complications can include:

  • Urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections);

  • Vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections);

  • Menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.);

  • Scar tissue and keloids;

  • Sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.);

  • Increased risk of childbirth complications (difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, caesarean section, need to resuscitate the baby, etc.) and newborn deaths;

  • Need for later surgeries: for example, the sealing or narrowing of the vaginal opening (Type 3) may lead to the practice of cutting open the sealed vagina later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth (deinfibulation).

  • Psychological problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, etc.);

FGM can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

FGM violates children’s rights. It is performed without the consent of girls and thus breaches the right to express one's view freely

The practice of FGM violates children’s rights as defined in the convention on the rights of the child (CRC). 

The right:

  • To be free from discrimination

  • To be protected from all forms of mental and physical violence and maltreatment;

  • To highest attainable standard of health;

  • Of freedom from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Because it is performed without the consent of the girls, it also breaches the right to express one’s view freely.


All the best

From your friends at SHAKE Africa!

Talk soon!


Mrs Joy Babayi is an MPH in Sexual and Reproductive Health candidate and the programmes officer at The SHAKE AFRICA Project.

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