Female genital mutilation (FGM)

At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone a form of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C). An additional 2 million girls could undergo FGM by 2030 as a result of COVID-19, on top of the 68 million cases which had previously been anticipated.*

We must work together to end FGM.

Zainab, 17, with her mother Kadiatu, 35, who is a Sowei and a former practitioner of FGM  .

Why does FGM happen?

  • To ‘save’ a girl for marriage
  • To control female sexuality
  • Reasons of family honour / social expectation
  • As a coming-of-age ritual
  • Higher dowries for girls and women seen as more ‘chaste’
  • Laws protecting girls from FGM aren’t enforced
  • All causes are rooted in gender inequality 

Pictured: Zainab, 17, with her mother Kadiatu, 35, who is a former practitioner of FGM. Photo credit: Plan International / Quinn Neely.

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 injuries 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 and reproductive health.

Barwaaqe: I will create awareness so FGM can be stopped for good

Read why she will never force her children, if she has them, to undergo FGM.

How is Plan International working to end FGM?

Plan International condemns all forms of FGM/C, it is a violation of the human rights of girls and women and a form of violence against women.  It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against girls and women.

This issue requires sensitive handling if we are to persuade families, communities and religious leaders that FGM is not a necessary part of a girl’s coming of age ritual and, ultimately, that it will no longer be accepted or tolerated. 

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 can make decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health and well-being.

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. 

Mothers stand strong against female genital mutilation 

Mothers Rahma, Saafi and Cawo explain why they will never let their daughters undergo the practice.

Where does FGM 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. 

Girls and women are more likely to be subjected to FGM/C in a humanitarian crisis or emergency. Out of the 15 countries with the highest rates of FGM/C in the world, 13 are deemed “fragile states”. The reasons for this are many, but they are generally linked to the insecurity caused by conflict and other crises, such as prolonged school closures, economic instability and a lack of health and other support services that can lead families to adopt negative coping mechanisms such as FGM/C.

What are the consequences of female genital mutilation?

Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn and maternal deaths.

The lasting psychological effects on victims can be traumatic, often leading to long-term mental health issues and sexual dysfunction.

According to UNICEF approximately one in four FGM/C survivors, 52 million women and girls worldwide, were subjected to FGM/C at the hands of a health personnel.

FGM/C can never be safe – even when carried out by trained medical professionals. There is no medical justification for the practice. The practice harms girls and women in many ways, with serious consequences including their health, education and economic empowerment. It robs them of life opportunities and stopping from them from reaching their potential.

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