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5 Major Facts To Know About Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation

The practise of FGM is considered a violation of human rights against the female gender.

Today, February 6, is celebrated as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, a day established by the United Nations General Assembly in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This year’s Theme is Her Voice. Her Future.

It provides the opportunity for governments, member states, civil society organizations, development partners, activists, and other relevant stakeholders to raise awareness and put an end to the practice.

In 2015, the Federal Government signed into law the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, which prohibits FGM and provides for a set of punishments for perpetrators of the harmful practice.

Here are some facts to know about female genital mutilation.

1. What is Female Genital Mutilation

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female genital mutilation (FGM) can be defined as the partial or complete removal of external female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

FGM is primarily performed on young girls, usually between the ages of infancy and 15, and it is considered a violation of human rights as well as a form of gender abuse. In about half of the countries where FGM is practiced, girls are cut before 5 years old. In other countries, most girls are cut between 5 and 14.

According to the WHO, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia where FGM is practiced.

2. Types of Female Genital Mutilation

There are four main types of FGM.

  • The partial or total removal of the clitoris, is also called clitoridectomy.
  • The partial or total removal of the clitoris and the inner labia, with or without excision of the outer labia (the labia are the ‘lips’ that surround the vagina).
  • This is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal, also known as infibulation. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoral prepuce/clitoral hood and glans.
  • This includes all other harmful procedures on the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g., pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.

3. Where is FGM mostly practiced?

FGM is practiced mostly in parts of northern and central Africa, in the southern Sahara, and parts of the Middle East and Asia. Among immigrant groups living in Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, female genital mutilation continues to persist. It is still practiced in 30 countries across three continents.

4. Effects and consequences of FGM

FGM results in various forms of health complications, including immediate and long-term effects such as:

  • Severe pain
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Broken limbs from being held down
  • Injury to adjacent tissues
  • Urine retention
  • Increased risk of HIV and AIDS
  • Uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections
  • Cysts and neuromas
  • Increased risk of fistula
  • Complications in childbirth
  • Depression and post-natal depression
  • Psychosexual problems
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Difficulties in menstruation
  • Trauma and flashbacks
  • Infertility
  • Death

5. Why is FGM still practiced?

While the prevalence of FGM has declined globally, FGM remains widespread in Nigeria.

Data from UNICEF indicates that, with an estimated 19.9 million survivors, Nigeria accounts for the third-highest number of women and girls who have undergone FGM worldwide.

  • Social and cultural pressure
  • Preservation of the girl’s virginity
  • Rite of passage into womanhood
  •  Perceived religious justifications