February 6th marks a day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide.
200 million women and young girls are currently affected by female genital mutilation. It is thought 3 million more are added to this current number each year (1). 44 million of these individuals are less than 15 years old (2). It is most common in countries in Africa, Asia, as well as the Middle East. More than 50% of these individuals live in Indonesia, Egypt, and Ethiopia (1).
There are four subtypes of FGM (3):
Type 1: Clitoridectomy
Type 2: Excision of labia minora, majora, and clitoris, or a mixture of the removal of these aspects of this anatomy.
Type 3: Infibulation which is the narrowing of the vaginal opening. This seal is created by the labia minora and majora while the clitoris is removed.
Type 4: All other procedures to the female genitals are deemed harmful and non-medical in nature.
These procedures do not have any medical benefits. They are painful and can cause bleeding, scarring, infection, shock, and even death. Ultimately, they can have long-term outcomes as well. Individuals can experience urinary changes, vaginal changes, challenges with menstrual cycles, dyspareunia, anorgasmia, difficulties giving birth, as well as psychosocial effects from the procedures (3).
Female Genital Mutilation is tied to cultural beliefs about transitioning to womanhood and marriage. In these cultures, there is social pressure to participate in order to be accepted into society. It is thought to decrease the likelihood of premarital sex and maintain purity. Additionally, they are thought to promote femininity and make females cleaner in appearance by removing aspects of the anatomy (3).
It may be easy to think that these practices are happening worlds away, but they too are occurring here in the United States or individuals from these countries may seek treatment in the US. It is important to recognize Female Genital Mutilation and support individuals who may have had any of these procedures performed. The World Health Organization and UNICEF are working on a global campaign to stop Female Genital Mutilation.
1. UNICEF. UNICEF’S Data Work on FGM/C./FGMC_2016_brochure_final_UNICEF_SPREAD.pdf. Published 2016.
2. Kaplan A, Cham B, Njie L, Seixas A, Blanco S, Utzet M. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: The Secret World of Women as Seen by Men. Obstetrics and Gynecology International. 2013. Doi:10.1155.
3. World Health Organization. Female genital mutilation. World Health Organization. http:/www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/. Published February 2017. Accessed January 14, 2018.