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, it violates girls’ right to make important decisions about their sexual health.
How does Plan International work to end FGM?
Start campaigningPlan 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 can make decisions about their own sexual health and well-being.
Since 2012, we have been working in the Gabu and Bafata regions of Guinea-Bissau where over 93% of women have undergone the practice. We are sparking open discussions between girls, ex-practitioners, religious leaders, community leaders and medical professionals to transform behaviours and encourage the abandonment of female genital cutting. So far, 5 communities have abandoned the practice as a result.
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.
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 it 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.
Where does it happen?
Although primarily concentrated in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, female genital cutting 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?
Procedures 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.
FGM activists and survivors speak out
Join the movement
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.