Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to the procedures involving removal of parts of female genitalia. The genitals may be cut, injured or deliberately altered for non-medical reasons. FGM usually takes place when girls are infants until the age of puberty. The practice is banned in the UK. FGM is globally recognised as a human rights violation, but despite being banned, some people choose to carry the procedure out illegally at home or in a private community.
As it has no medical/health benefits FGM is usually carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons. In some communitites it is seen to prepare a woman for marriage or to preserve her virginity. It must be stressed that there is no justification for these kinds of procedures and as a society we must continue to strive to prevent more women from having to suffer throught such a harmful and dangerous procedure.
There are four main types:
- Clitoridectomy – this is a removal of the clitoris and can be partial, sometimes only the skin around the clitoris is removed.
- Excision – removal of the clitoris as well as of the labia minora, but not the labia majora, which is a larger flap of skin around the vagina.
- Infibulation – implanting a seal over the vaginal opening and narrowing it, this is done by removing pieces of skin from elsewhere and placing them over the vaginal opening using stitches in most cases.
- Other – harmful procedures include: pricking, cauterizing and scraping the vaginal area.
It is clearly evident that undergoing FGM is traumatic for any woman involved and the effects will be with a woman for the rest of her life., but sometimes women and girls can die from the procedure due to unsanitary conditions and lack of medical guidance when carrying out the mutilation. Some of the side effects include:
- Severe pain
- Urinary problems
- Haemorrhage – severe bleeding
- Swelling of the genital area
- Scar tissue malformation
- Childbirth complications risk increasing
- Sexual problems, during and after intercourse
- Psychological problems following the emotional trauma
In some cases, treatment will not help, but in others procedures can be undertaken such as deinfibulation to widen the vaginal opening and to recontruct damaged areas of tissue.
If you know someone who is having an FGM procedure, has had one or if you have had one or will have one yourself it is essential to call the police and to obtain aid. You can see your GP or visit a gynaecologist for additional help.
NSPCC: 0800 028 3550
Childline: 0800 1111