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reproductive health > factfile > female genital mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation

Posted: 26 Sep 2007

An estimated 135 million of the world's girls and women have undergone genital mutilation, and two million girls a year are at risk of mutilation - approximately 6,000 per day. It is practised extensively in Africa and is common in some countries in the Middle East. It is traditionally regarded as a form of circumcision for girls marking their entry into womanhood, although sometimes it is performed on very young children.

  • The effects of genital mutilation can lead to death. At the time the mutilation is carried out, pain, shock, haemorrhage and damage to the organs surrounding the clitoris and labia can occur. Afterwards urine may be retained and serious infection develop. Use of the same instrument on several girls without sterilization can cause the spread of HIV.

  • More commonly, the chronic infections, intermittent bleeding, abscesses and small benign tumours of the nerve which can result from clitoridectomy and excision cause discomfort and extreme pain.

  • Infibulation can have even more serious long-term effects: chronic urinary tract infections, stones in the bladder and urethra, kidney damage, reproductive tract infections resulting from obstructed menstrual flow, pelvic infections, infertility, excessive scar tissue, keloids (raised, irregularly shaped, progressively enlarging scars) and dermoid cysts.

  • Infibulation often causes difficulty in childbirth, sometimes resulting in fistula (rupture between the vagina and the rectum or urethra).

  • Although the international community and individual governments and the main religions have condemned the practice, it remains widespread in about 28 countries.

  • One recent estimate found that more than 40 per cent of Nigerian women have undergone genital mutilation. Sule Odoma, Commissioner for Health in the central Kogi State, said about 28 million Nigerian girls and women had undergone various forms of FGM, out of a total of 120 million women world wide. The Health Ministry has launched an awareness campaign, visiting rural populations to alert them to the health and social consequences of the practise, according to Aisha Mohammed, coordinator of the programme.

    While the prevalence rate in Nigeria stands at 40.5 per cent of the female population, distribution among states ranges from 98 to 0.6 per cent , Mrs Odoma said. The south-western part of the country had the highest rates.

  • On International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation, on February 9, 2007, the UN renewed its call for intensified global efforts to save the 3 million girls who still face the risk of genital mutilation.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has produced a Factsheet on FGM:

Female Genital Cutting (FGC) Education and Networking Project

Rainbo - Health and Rights for African Women

Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices
Affecting the Health of Women and Children

Amnesty International has published an information pack on Female Genital Mutilation

See also Fran Hosken on FGM.

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