Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): what you must know

Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures that remove (partially or totally), change or injure the genitals of a female for reasons that are not medical. In other words, the genitals of women, girls and babies are cut.

  • In FGM, the normal healthy tissue of the female genitals is cut/removed and damaged; and this affects the normal function of the body.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is also known as Female genital cutting, or Female circumcision or Excision.

  • In some communities, FGM is called “Sunna” or “Tahor” – which are both Arabic terms.
  • It is mostly girls from birth to age 15 years that undergo FGM. Although females of other ages are also subjected to the practice.
  • On the 6th of February every year, the “International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation” is observed as declared by the United Nations. This day is set aside to strengthen and intensify understanding of the issue – as well as, to motivate and support concrete actions against the practice. The UN fights against the practice of FGM in many ways, using various means, in addition to the observance.
  • The United Nations (UN) explains that the practice of female genital mutilation shows an inequality between the sexes that is deep-rooted. The UN also describes FGM as a very severe form of discrimination against girls and women.
  • It is viewed, internationally, as a breach of the human rights of women and girls.
  • FGM infringes on the rights of women and girls to physical integrity, health and security, their right to be free from inhuman cruel or degrading treatment and torture, as well as their right to life. It violates their right to life in situations when it leads to death. This procedure often leads to serious complications.
  • The World Health Organisations (WHO) has emphasised that FGM has no health benefits. Instead, it (FGM) can cause a lifetime of problems.
  • The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), together with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), leads the largest worldwide programme to speed up the eradication of FGM.

Where did FGM originate?

  • It is not clear where the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting originated.
  • FGM has been recorded to have occurred before the rise of Christianity and Islam. Some Egyptian mummies are said to have characteristics of FGM.
  • According to historians like Herodotus, the Ethiopians, Hittites and Phoenicians practiced circumcision in the fifth century BC.
  • Reports also state that circumcision rites were practiced in tropical zones of Africa, by women of the Arunta tribe in Australia, by certain early Romans and Arabs, in the Philippines, and by certain tribes in the Upper Amazon.
  • In the 1950s, clitoridectomy was practiced in the United States and Western Europe.
  • It was erroneously believed to treat epilepsy, depression, hysteria, nymphomania, mental disorders, and masturbation. Many different people have practiced FGM over the years and in different continents.
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Somso Kizor enjoys words. She loves reading good books and writing - amongst other things. Somso is passionate about educating people about their health; as this would reduce the burden of diseases and deaths (hence, suffering) all over the world. Let's not forget the popular saying that goes "health is wealth." For more details, send an email to info@healthfacts.ng

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