What is Female Genital Mutilation?
Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, excision or genital cutting, comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the genital organs for non-medical reasons, mostly carried out between infancy and age 15.
The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women. Because it is usually performed without permission and often against will, FGM violates girls’ right to make important decisions about their sexual health.
Why does Female Genital Mutilation happen?
Cultural beliefs are a strong factor in why this harmful practice takes place. These include the idea that it preserves chastity, cleanliness, family honour and preserves a girl for marriage.
It requires sensitive handling if we are to persuade communities that FGM is not a necessary part of a girl’s education and coming of age ritual. We need to get across the message that these girls are children, and not in a position to make a choice as to whether or not to participate in the practice.
How does Plan International work to end FGM?
Plan International works with parents, community leaders, government authorities and children and young people to raise awareness, transform behaviour and put an end to harmful traditional practices. We are striving to end excision so girls exercise their right to make decisions about their own sexual health and well-being.
In Mali last year, for example, we trained thousands of people – including 845 community leaders – on the consequences of female genital mutilation and reached thousands more through awareness-raising sessions and radio broadcasts. As a result, a total of 69 villages in our project areas have now abandoned the practice.
A key element to our approach is to give young people a voice in this process, to involve them – particularly girls – and to empower them to claim their rights to a safer, more fulfilling life.
Where does it happen?
Although primarily concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, FGM is a universal problem and is also practised in some countries in Asia and Latin America. The practice continues to persist amongst immigrant populations living in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
What are the consequences?
Get our newsletterProcedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of new-born deaths.
Deaths from excision do happen as a result of haemorrhaging during or immediately after the procedure, or infections in the following weeks.
The lasting psychological effects on victims can be traumatic, often leading to long-term mental health issues and sexual dysfunction.
What you can do to stop it
Raise awareness and tweet this
"Female genital mutilation is a violation of girls and women’s human rights. We must #EndFGM. https://plan-international.org/EndFGM" Tweet this
Join the movement
Join Plan International's Because I am a Girl movement for girls' rights
The United Nations marks International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation on 6 February every year.
*Facts by United Nations.
** Map data from UNICEF. Plan International is not responsible for content on external sites.