6th February is the UN’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures involving cutting a girl or woman’s genitals to mark or remove some or all her external genitalia, including her clitoris, or to stitch her vaginal opening together.
Despite being internationally recognized as an extreme human rights violation against women and girls, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women worldwide have suffered FGM.
FGM is one of many harmful practices against girls and women which are rooted in deep inequality between the sexes and discrimination against females because of their bodies.
FGM is not supported by any religious doctrine, but evolved as a social convention amongst some cultures as a direct way to control girls’ and women’s sexuality. FGM is also likely to destroy a woman’s capacity for sexual pleasure, which is also the intention.
FGM has reduced but still persists across the world, particularly but not only in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Many diaspora communities have continued to practice FGM.
FGM can cause severe bleeding and death. If the girl survives, she is likely to suffer physical and mental trauma for her lifetime, including difficulty and pain in urinating and menstruating and in having sex. A girl or woman who has undergone FGM has a much increased risk of being seriously injured or dying during childbirth, and of her baby dying.
A minority of FGM is now done under medical supervision, which some people believe to be safer and more acceptable. However, the World Health Organization strongly urges healthcare providers not to perform FGM in any circumstances.
FGM has been illegal across the whole UK since 1985 and it’s also now illegal for a girl to be taken outside of the UK to be subjected to FGM. However, some UK girls are still at risk from FGM. Government agencies, schools and charities across the UK work to identify and safeguard girls who may be at risk.
Girls and women who have undergone FGM are often in pain and ashamed and need support to seek help. Remember that you are not alone. There are women doctors and nurses across the UK who will give you expert care for your medical and psychological health.
Here are links to the sources for the information above. You can also use these sources to learn more and get support for yourself or a girl or woman you know who may be at risk of FGM or who has suffered from FGM:
Cover image: “International Day for zero tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation” by ALDE Group is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/?ref=openverse.