FGM - Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation

Definition and Key facts

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • Procedures can cause death, severe bleeding, wound infection and problems urinating, and later cysts, Hepatitis B, HIV and infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of new born deaths.
  • More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM is concentrated.
  • FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
  • FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women and is considered as torture under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Recent FGM News for GPs

FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types:

  • Type 1: Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
  • Type 2: Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" that surround the vagina).
  • Type 3: Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
  • Type 4: Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

(World Health Organisation, 2014)

Breast ironing

Breast ironing, also known as breast flattening, is the pounding and massaging of a pubescent girl's breasts using hard or heated objects, to try to make them stop developing or to disappear. Although not explicitly considered currently under legislation, Practitioners need to be aware of this potential practice and act in the best interest of protecting the child/young person and follow local safeguarding procedures. Breast Ironing is typically carried out by the girl's mother with the belief that she is protecting the girl from sexual harassment and rape, prevent early pregnancy that would tarnish the family name, or to allow the girl to pursue education rather than be forced into early marriage.  It is mostly practiced in parts of Cameroon. Breast ironing is extremely painful and can cause tissue damage. Other possible health impacts include breast infections, the formation of abscesses, malformed breasts or the eradication of one or both breasts. The practice ranges dramatically in its severity, from using heated leaves to press and massage the breasts, to using a scalding grinding stone to crush the budding gland. Due to the range of this activity, health consequences vary from benign to acute.

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