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The World Health Organization on female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined the female genital mutilation (or cutting) as a violation of the human rights of women and girls. FGM, which is classified in four major types, is performed for a mix of cultural, religious and social reasons.

Girl in  Haiti (Photo: Beauty African people and cultures)


WHO has classified the female genital mutilation in four major types:
1. Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
2. Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minor, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" that surround the vagina).
3. Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
4. Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

An African woman holding plantain on her head (Photo: Beautiful African people and cultures)
The roots of female genital mutilation are a mix of cultural, religious and social causes, WHO stated:
  • Where FGM is a social convention, the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing is a strong motivation to perpetuate the practice.
  • FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
  • FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a women's libido and therefore believed to help her resist "illicit" sexual acts. When a vaginal procedure is covered or narrowed, the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage "illicit" sexual intercourse among women with a certain type of FGM.
  • FGM is associated with cultural ideals of feminity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are "clean" and "beautiful" after removal of body parts that are considered "male" or "unclean."
  • Through no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.
  • Religious leaders take varying positions with regard to FGM: some promote it, some consider it irrelevant to religion, and others contribute to its elimination.
  • Local structures of power and authority, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice.
  • In most societies, FGM is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.
  • In some societies, recent adoption of the practice is linked to copying the traditions of neighbouring groups. Sometimes, it has started as part of a wider religious or traditional revival movement.
  • In some societies, FGM is practised by new groups when they move into areas where the local population practice FGM 

Additional articles or websites on female genital mutilation/cutting ( FGM/C):

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