Female genital mutilation

What is female genital mutilation?

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting, is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons".

Key facts

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
  • It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years.
  • FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
  • The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. Increasingly, however, FGM is being performed by health care providers.
  • Around the globe, 130 million girls and women have undergone FGM.
  • In Africa 101 million girls aged 10 and over have been subjected to FGM.
  • Every year a further 3 million girls are at risk of FGM in Africa alone

Prevalence of FGM in AfricaAccording to a 2013 UNICEF report based on surveys completed by select countries, FGM is known to be prevalent in 27 African countries, Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan, where 125 million women and girls have undergone FGM.

The UNICEF report notes FGM is found in countries beyond the 29 countries it covered, and the total worldwide number is unknown. Other reports claim the prevalence of FGM in countries not discussed by the 2013 UNICEF report. The practice occurs in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Syria,  Oman, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Earlier reports claimed the prevalence of FGM in Israel among the Negev Bedouin, which by 2009 has virtually disappeared.

Consequences of FGM

Depending on the degree of mutilation, FGM can have a number of short-term health implications:

  • severe pain and shock
  • infection
  • urine retention
  • injury to adjacent tissues
  • immediate fatal haemorrhaging

Long-term effects include:

  • extensive damage of the external reproductive system
  • uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections
  • cysts and neuromas
  • increased risk of vesico vaginal fistula
  • complications in pregnancy and child birth
  • psychological damage
  • sexual dysfunction
  • difficulties in menstruation

Information, support and advice

Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee Report on FGM, 2016

Oxford Against Cutting: (OAC) is committed to working to help prevent female genital mutilation (FGM) of girls and women living in Oxfordshire.

Web: www.oxfordagainstcutting.org/ 

FORWARD (Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development) is committed to gender equality and safeguarding the rights of African girls and women. We are a leading African diaspora women’s campaign and support organisation. We work through partnerships in the UK, Europe and Africa to transform lives, tackling discriminatory practices that affect the dignity and wellbeing of girls and women. Our focus is on female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and obstetric fistula.

Web: forwarduk.org.uk/ 

Rights of Women
Rights of Women works to attain justice and equality by informing, educating and empowering women on their legal rights.
Web: rightsofwomen.org.uk


The London Safeguarding Children Board have produced a useful FGM resource pack


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