Female genital mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is cutting off part or all of the female genitals that are outside of the body. FGM is also called female genital cutting and female circumcision. It is done for traditional reasons, as part of a ritual, not for medical reasons.
|Definition||Defined in 1997 by the WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA as the "partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."|
|Areas||Estimated in 2013 to be most common in 27 countries in Africa, as well as in Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan|
|Numbers||133 million in those countries as of 2014|
|Age||Days after birth to puberty|
FGM is most common in 27 African countries, as well as Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan. However, it also happens in other countries in Asia, the Middle East, and around the world. Usually, FGM is not done by a doctor or in a hospital. It is often done with a razor blade or other sharp instruments, in many cases without anesthesia.
Different ethnic groups do different kinds of FGM. They also do FGM at different ages. Some groups do FGM when infants are only a few days old. Others do it when girls reach puberty, or are older. In about half the countries where FGM happens, most girls have FGM before they are five years old.
FGM can cause serious health problems, like infections, chronic pain, trouble getting pregnant and giving birth, bleeding so bad that it can kill. FGM does not make a person's health better in any way.
FGM is illegal in most of the countries where it happens. However, these laws are often ignored. Since the 1970s, many countries have tried to stop FGM. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly said that FGM is a human rights problem, and voted to try harder to stop it. The World Health Organization and the "Maputo Protocol" to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights also say that FGM must be stopped.
Types of female genital mutilationEdit
There are a few forms of Type II FGM. All of them involve cutting off part or all of the inner labia, the two flaps of skin on the sides of the opening to the vagina. The forms of Type II FGM are:
- Type IIa: The inner labia are cut off.
- Type IIb: The inner labia and part of the clitoris are cut off.
- Type IIc: The inner labia and part of the clitoris are cut off. So is the outer labia, the folds of skin that protect the genitals.
Type III FGM is usually called infibulation. It is the most severe form of FGM. The genitals outside a woman's body are cut off and the wound is sewn shut with thread and thorns. The different types of infibulation are:
- Type IIIa: The inner labia are cut off and sewn closed.
- Type IIIb: The outer labia are cut away and seen closed.
When the labia are sewn shut, one small hole is left open so the girl can urinate and menstruate. The hole is kept open by putting something like a twig into the wound. To help the wound close, the girl's legs are tied together, often from hip to ankle, for up to six weeks.
After the woman gets married, her vagina is cut open so she can have sex. A midwife might cut open the vagina with a knife, or the woman's husband might tear it open with his penis. If the woman gets pregnant, the vagina is opened more for childbirth, and then often sewn back up afterward (this is called re-infibulation).
In many countries where FGM is common, almost every woman and girl in the country has had FGM. In other countries, millions of women and girls have had FGM over many years.
In 25 countries in Africa and the Middle East, over 125 million women and girls have had FGM. This includes:
- 27.2 million girls and women in Egypt
- 23.8 million in Ethiopia
- 19.9 milllion in Nigeria
- 12.1 million in Sudan
- 9.3 million in Kenya and Burkina Faso; and
- Millions of other girls and women in other countries.
In some of these same 25 countries, FGM is very common. It is most common in these countries:
- Somalia: 98% of girls and women in the country have had FGM
- Guinea: 96%
- Djibouti: 93%
- Egypt: 91%
- Eritrea: 89%
- Mali: 89%
- Sierra Leone: 88%
- Sudan: 88%
However, in other countries, FGM is not as common. For example, of the 25 countries where FGM happens most often, it is least common in these countries:
- The type of FGM
- Whether the FGM was done by someone with medical training
- Whether antibiotic medicines were used
- Whether sterile(clean and safe) tools were used
"Short-term complications" are health problems caused by FGM soon after the FGM happened. Common short-term complications include:
- Scars, which can block urine and blood from getting out of the body
- Cysts, which can become infected
- Damage to the bladder and urethra
- Infibulated girls can have trouble or pain when urinating. They can also have infections and pain during sex.
Painful periods are common because it is very difficult for the monthly menstrual blood to get out of the tiny hole left by infibulation. Blood can fill the vagina and uterus, and stay there without moving. If the vagina gets completely blocked, the vagina and uterus can fill up completely with menstrual blood. Because women with this problem do not menstruate, and blood builds up in their abdomen (making it swell), it can be confused with pregnancy.
Pregnancy and childbirthEdit
- Have third-degree lacerations (very bad skin tears around the vagina) when they try to give birth
- Have damage to their anal sphincters from giving birth, affecting bowel control; and
- Need emergency caesarean sections
FGM also raises the risk that a woman's baby will die soon after it is born. In 2008, the WHO estimated that 10–20 babies out of every 1,000 die because their mothers had FGM. All types of FGM were found to raise babies' risk of death, which was:
- 15 percent higher for Type I FGM;
- 32 percent higher for Type II; and
- 55 percent for Type III.
Effects on mental health & sexual functionEdit
There is not much information about the effects of FGM on women's and girls' mental health. However, a few small studies have found that women with FGM often have anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Studies on how FGM affects women's ability to have sex have also been small. In total, in 2013, there had been 15 studies involving 12,671 women from seven countries. When all the information from these studies was put together, researchers found that:
- Women with FGM were twice as likely than other women to say they never felt like having sex
- Women with FGM were 52% more likely than other women to have dyspareunia (pain during sex)
- One-third of women with FGM had less sexual feelings than before their FGM.
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