Mutilation- An Overview and Efforts to End It
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a form of violence against women. It is a procedure that intentionally cause injury to the female external genitalia or to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is a human rights abuse that leaves scars that last for the lifetime. It is a threat to women’s health and well being, causing psychological trauma, sexual problems, recurrent infections, complications during childbirth, and other chronic health issues.
It is also referred to as female circumcision or cutting, as well as various other names including Sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez, and khitan among others.
WHO has classified FGM into four types:
- Type I-Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce
- Type II-Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora
- Type III-Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora
- Type IV: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
FGM is practiced for a variety of cultural, religious, and social reasons. However, it has no health benefits and causes significant harm to women and girls, including severe pain, bleeding, infection, scarring, and increased risk of childbirth complications.
Female Genital Mutilation is most prevalent in Africa, but also occurs in some countries in Asia and the Middle East. The highest prevalence rates are found in Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti, and Egypt.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, with numbers as high as 44 million for girls and women aged 15-49 in Africa alone. The true number is likely higher, as FGM is often performed in secret and not reported.
Laws prohibiting FGM exist in many countries, but enforcement remains a challenge. The United Nations considers FGM a violation of human rights and has called for its elimination.