Female genital cutting/mutilation refers to all procedures in which the external genitals of a female are removed partially or completely for non-medical reasons. Female genital mutilation is also called female circumcision or female genital cutting. Despite the erroneous beliefs of many people, female genital mutilation has no health benefits.
Female genital cutting/mutilation is classified into four major types:
- Type I: Also called clitoridectomy. It involves removing the clitoris (and/or its prepuce) partially or completely.
- Type II: Also called excision. Excision involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora. This takes place with or without removal of the labia majora; it varies from community to community. The labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina; labia minora are the inner folds of the vulva, and the labia majora are the outer folds.Type III: Also known as Infibulation or Pharaonic type. It is the most severe form offemale genital mutilation/cutting. And it involves the narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a covering seal. The seal is made by cutting and repositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora. The labia minora and/or labia majora are placed side by side and stitched together for some time; sometimes, the girls’ legs are tied together. This procedure creates the covering seal. The small opening allows passage of urine and blood. This entire process occurs with or without removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy).
- Type IV: Refers to all other harmful procedures carried out on the female genitalia for purposes that are not medical. Examples of procedures that make up type IV female genital mutilation are piercing, cauterisation, pricking, incising, and scraping the female genital area.
There are terms that are related to female genital mutilation; they are:
- De-infibulation: Is the process that cuts open the small/narrowed vaginal opening of a female who has undergone infibulation. De-infibulation can be done through a surgical procedure. Sometimes, it may occur during sexual intercourse. It is necessary to allow childbirth, and most times – to allow sexual intercourse. This procedure improves the health of the female who has undergone infibulation.
- Re-infibulation: Involves stitching the labia back together after de-infibulation.
- Incision: Involves cuts made on the clitoris, as well as cuts made in the wall of the vagina, perineum and or symphysis.
Which type of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is most common?
Information provided by WHO shows that Type I and Type II are most common; they account for 90% of cases of FGM. Type III is performed on about 10% of women; and it is most likely to be performed in Djibouti, Somalia and Northern Sudan.