Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is any procedure which involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is also sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision and is usually carried out on girls between the age of infancy and the beginning of puberty, and sometimes in adulthood. There is no health benefit to FGM and it is recognised internationally as a human rights violation.
FGM is often practised seasonally, so the school holidays are when children are most at risk. FGM is often a cultural norm in the communities where it is practised. The prevalence and type vary between communities even within the same country. However, not all families in FGM practising communities want their girls and women to undergo FGM. It is also important to note that not all women or girls know that they have had FGM performed on them.
In the UK, FGM is illegal. Those who carry out the procedure or who arrange for a girl to travel abroad in order to undergo FGM are at risk of a large fine and a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
Over 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM across Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia and migrant communities worldwide. In England and Wales alone, over 65,000 girls and women are estimated to have undergone FGM; while at least 25,000 girls under the age of 15 are currently at risk of being subjected to FGM.
The Utulivu foundation runs FGM awareness campaigns in many communities to safeguard young girls at risk and work closely with families and faith groups and community leaders to highlight the effects of FGM on victims, highlight parental responsibility and ensure that girls and women are protected. Utulivu also runs support activities for survivors of FGM, offering specialist one-one counselling and peer support group sessions.
The organisation also trains FGM community champions and run courses for frontline professionals to competently handle FGM issues and to reach communities. Utulivu work towards the protection of girls at risk of FGM and the restoration of the dignity of African women and girls who have been affected by the practice. The organisation raises awareness, provide training and information on policies related issue. We work towards the improvement of access to appropriate services through advocacy and by raising awareness about the effects and impact of FGM and other Harmful Traditional Practices on the lives of women and girls.
Utulivu supports the English Government’s 4 Ps in its FGM approach – Prevention, Protection, Provision of services and Participation. The organisation understands that FGM is not a single story and is more than cutting – therefore our expertise tries to involve and engage all members of the community: youth, women, men and community and faith leaders from countries across Africa.
Let's Stop FGM
Types of FGM
There are four types of FGM depending on how much tissue is cut or removed. Type III FGM is the most extreme version and it carries the most risk for women during childbirth. All types of FGM are a human rights violation and all have been illegal in Ireland since 2012.
Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce. In medical literature, this form of FGM/C is also referred to as ‘clitoridectomy’. A number of practising communities also refer to it as Sunna, which is
Arabic for ‘tradition’ or ‘duty’.
This involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora with or without excision of the labia majora. The 2007 WHO definition recognizes that although this form of cutting is more extensive than Type I, there is considerable variability in the form or degree of cutting. In English, this type of cutting is often referred to as ‘excision’, although it is important to note that in French the term ‘excision’ generally refers to all forms of FGM/C.
This involves the narrowing of the vaginal orifice by cutting and bringing together the labia minora and/or the labia majora to create a type of seal with or without excision of the clitoris. In most instances, the cut edges of the labia are stitched together, which is referred to as ‘infibulation’. The adhesion of the labia results in near-complete covering of the urethra and the vaginal orifice, which must be reopened for sexual intercourse and childbirth, a procedure known as ‘de-infibulation’. In some instances, this is followed by re-infibulation.
All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example; pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization. Pricking or nicking involves cutting to draw blood, but no removal of tissue and no permanent alteration of the external genitalia. This is sometimes called ‘symbolic circumcision’, and some communities have described it as a traditional form of FGM/C. Although symbolic circumcision is still highly controversial, it has been proposed as an alternative to more severe forms of cutting in both African and other countries where FGM/C is performed.
FGM Health Consequences
Short Term Complications:
Infection and failure of the wound to heal
Injury or trauma to adjoining areas, such as the urethra and anus
Shock from severe pain and bleeding
Transmission of HIV and other viruses
Long Term Complications:
Decrease or loss of sexual sensation
Difficult and complicated childbirth
Dysmenorrhoea, difficulties in menstruation including passing menses
Dyspareunia (painful intercourse)
Incontinence and difficulty urinating
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility
Scarring (with or without keloid formation) and hardening of the vaginal tissue, causing constant pain around the genital area
Sebaceous cyst development