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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting (FGC), is a practice involving the cutting or removal of the external genitals. It is practised in 28 African countries and some communities in the Middle East and Asia. Globally, three million girls undergo FGM each year. It is often performed as a ‘rite of passage’ seen to prepare a girl for becoming a woman and wife. It is largely imposed on girls and young women as a means to ensure virginity and chastity in order to meet cultural expectations and protect certain ‘traditional’ values and family honour.

It is, however, a violent and dangerous practice that leaves many girls and women physically, psychologically and emotionally damaged, and can result in serious long-term health problems or even death. It is traditionally practised by non-medically trained women, often in unsterile conditions and without anaesthetic. However in a few countries it has become more medicalised, sometimes being carried out in hospitals. Statistics and in-depth details on the practising countries are covered in the UNICEF report.

Internationally FGM is recognised as a clear violation of human rights. There are a number of global campaigns aimed at encouraging the abandonment of the practice. For example, on 22nd July, the UK will host the first Girl Summit, bringing global decision makers and civil society together with the aim of ending FGM and child, early and forced marriage within a generation. A high level of public support for the summit will put even greater pressure on those attending to commit to unified action. You can get involved by posting a pledge on Facebook or Twitter.

Also the campaign 28 Too Many, works in the 28 countries where FGM is practised with the aim of building an information base and anti-FGM network for each practising country to mobilise campaigns and advocate to end FGM.

The other resources featured here provide innovative suggestions for moving towards abandonment of the practice, for example: non-violent Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP) in Kenya; re-classification of FGM as a form of torture; a comprehensive and holistic approach with a focus on converting leaders and peer group learning, and campaigning for favourable legal framework.

Female genital cutting
Tostan 2014
Female genital cutting (FGC) is a deeply-rooted social norm enforced by community expectations around marriageability. Girls who are not cut are often ostracised by their communities. Tostan is an African-based organisation empowering...
Curbing the surge of female genital mutilation
K. O. Odeku / Bangladesh Sociology Society 2014
Given the extensive physical, emotional, mental and sexual traumas resulting from female genital mutilation (FGM), this article argues for classifying the practice as torture in order to strengthen the law against it, and bring perpet...
What works and what does not: a discussion of popular approaches for the abandonment of female genital mutilation
R. E. B. Johansen; N. J. Diop; G. Laverack; E. Leye / Hindawi Publishing Corporation 2013
A range of interventions have been carried out over the past few decades to promote the abandonment of female genital mutilation (FGM). While these efforts have had varied success, the prevalence of FGM is reducing in nearly all the c...
Female genital mutilation/cutting: a statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change
United Nations Children's Fund 2013
Efforts to address female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) have increased in the past several decades, with support from many local communities, governments, international institutions, non-governmental organisations, as well as rel...
Female genital mutilation practices in Kenya: the role of alternative rites of passage - a case study of Kisii and Kuria districts
H. Oloo; M. Wanjiru; K. Newell-Jones / Feed the Minds 2011
This study seeks to better understand female gential mutilation (FGM) as it is practised by the Kuria and Kisii communities in Kenya, in order to enable agencies working there to devise more effective interventions encouraging the aba...
28 Too Many
28 Too Many 2014
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a traditional cultural practice involving the cutting or removal of the external genitals. FGM (sometimes called female genital cutting) is traditionally practised by non-medically trained women, oft...