What is female genital mutilation?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It's also known as female circumcision or cutting. FGM is often performed by someone with no medical training who uses instruments such as a knife, scalpel, scissors, glass or razor blade. Children are rarely given anesthesia or antiseptic treatment and are often forcibly restrained.
Types of FGM
Type 1 (clitoridectomy) – removing part or all of the clitoris.
Type 2 (excision) – removing part or all of the clitoris and cutting the inner and/or outer labia.
Type 3 (infibulation) – narrowing the vaginal opening.
Type 4 – other harmful procedures to the female genitals including pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping or burning.
Labia elongation (also referred to as labia stretching or labia pulling) involves stretching the labia minora, sometimes using sticks, harnesses or weights.
FGM is abuse. It has no health benefits whatsoever and can have terrible and lasting physical, psychological, and emotional consequences.
The NHS warns that infections and excessive bleeding are common consequences of the procedures, both of which can be deadly.
Death can occur as a direct result of being cut. These deaths can be caused by a range of complications, including haemorrhage, contracting septicaemia, tetanus, or HIV, due to unsterilised tools. A girl will also experience shock, fear, pain and trauma.
After undergoing FGM, a girl can experience difficulty in passing urine and difficulties with menstruation, because her urethra and/or vaginal opening may have been blocked through FGM. This can lead to chronic urinary infections and chronic pelvic inflammation. They may also suffer from cysts, abscesses and ulcers after being cut.
Young girls who are subjected to FGM may also suffer educationally. Health problems resulting from FGM can cause them to miss school/college/university, leading to poor achievements, which will economically disadvantage them later in their lives. FGM is also often a precursor to child marriage.
With FGM, sex can be painful and traumatic. Women and girls who have undergone FGM Type 3 will often have to be re-cut to have sex or may experience forced penetration. It is not only the first time that is painful. For many women, scar tissue will continue to cause pain during sex throughout their lifetimes, whilst their partners may also experience pain and trauma during sex.
After a girl/young woman is cut, there can be an increased risk of infertility, which within some communities may cause her to be abandoned by her husband.
FGM has a direct impact on maternal and infant mortality. Women who have undergone FGM Type 3 are 70% more likely to suffer haemorrhage through giving birth. They are twice as likely to die in childbirth and have a higher likelihood of stillbirth due to obstructed labour. Women who have undergone FGM Type 3 are also more likely to experience other complications including obstetric fistula, foetal asphyxia, and perineal tears.
DORCAS is a UK based non-profit organisation that has been created to promote and protect the human rights of girls and women who are at risk of abuse; in particular those who are at risk of or have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). We aim to raise awareness about FGM and work in collaboration with partnership agencies to help people who are affected by this practice and ultimately help bring an end to this abhorrent crime. We take a holistic approach, offering advice and support to help those who have been affected and place their wellbeing at the front of all our services. We will be delivering an awareness programme in schools and colleges. By utilising creative arts, we want to engage, educate and support young people.
Report & Statistics
NHS reported that there were 1,550 individual women and girls who had an attendance where FGM was identified in the period between January 2021 and March 2021. These accounted for 2,530 attendances reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified.
It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM worldwide, with the majority of children cut before age 5.
It is estimated that approximately 60,000 girls aged 0-14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM.
Reasons why FGM is practised
FGM is practised as a result of deep-rooted tradition among practising communities. The practice is a social norm that is held in place by an entire community, men and women alike. FGM is often a tradition that is passed down through generations, meaning that parents often unquestioningly have their daughters cut because the community expects it.
The practice of cutting girls is frequently based on a traditional belief in the need to control a girl’s sexuality and ensure her virginity until marriage, or to prepare her for marriage. A girl who remains uncut will often be considered unsuitable for marriage. There are also often misconceptions that an uncut girl will be promiscuous, unclean, bad luck, or less fertile.
In some communities, there are also misconceptions that it is a religious obligation to cut their daughters.
Those who subject girls to FGM may do so because of pressures from their community, cultural norms, or believe it will improve the chances of marriage.
Together we can help survivors of FGM and educate communities to end this hidden crime. Thank you for your support!