What is Female Genital Mutilation (‘FGM’)?


Female Genital Mutilation (‘FGM’) is the removal of a young girls genitals through a painful procedure, often with blunt tools and rarely with anesthetic.

The genitalia is partly or entirely removed supposedly to suppress sexual desire. The mutilation is almost always conducted on prepubescent girls between the ages of 4 and 8. Unfortunately those who conduct the ritual don’t realise the incredible pain these girls endure for the rest of their lives. While most survive this inhumane ritual, the complications do lead to a concerning number of deaths.
The healing process, which is really just temporary until the girl becomes a woman, involves the sewing together of the labia or outer lips. Only a small hole for urine and menstruation remains. The girl’s legs are bound together while she lies, unable to move, for about three weeks. The healing is nearly completely undone when the girl marries, as the scar needs to be re-opened, by her new husband, before intercourse. This is a completely barbaric form of torture, as unnecessary and additional pain is inflicted on the victim yet again.

Young girls in many cultures aren’t entitled to make their own decisions about what happens to their bodies. In fact, the belief is that by putting these girls through genital mutilation at a young age, they will not cave into sexual desires. This is nothing short of a crime, and a horrific one at that!


Female Genital Mutilation is a crudely-executed, non-medical procedure that is conducted without sterilised tools or anaesthesia on young girls and women. There are no associated health benefits with this procedure, nor is there any evidence to support the belief that removing or mutilating the genitals does suppress sexual urges in females.

Health problems

  • Urination Problems
  • Bleeding
  • Infections
  • Increase in stillbirths
  • Infertility
  • Cysts

This ritual procedure is mostly not conducted by medical professionals, rather by incisors or ‘grandmothers’. They’re women who also attend births. Hygiene is not usually a consideration as knives, scissors, razor blades or pieces of broken glass can be used.

Over 18% of all genital mutilations are carried out by health care providers with some training in Western medical practices. This percentage is all the more alarming as it continues to grow.

Violation of Human rights

Cutting out a woman’s genitals clearly shows the inequality between the sexes, and it violates their human rights and other rights included in the UN’s ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.

These include a person’s rights to health, physical integrity, the right to freedom from torture and otherwise inhuman treatment, and the general right to life.

This procedure has been recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women and something needs to be done to restore these rights. Of the 54 countries in Africa only 16 have laws that ban FGM, unfortunately, even those laws are often ignored.

Help us put an end to this crime, and give young girls the right to their own bodies.

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  • FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons
  • It is done without anaesthetic or sterilised tools
  • It has no health benefits
  • FGM causes severe bleeding, problems with urinating, cysts, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth and increased risks of newborn deaths
  • About 150 million girls and women worldwide are currently in danger of having their genitals mutilated or cut out
  • Genital mutilation is done from infancy till the age of 15
  • In Africa, an estimated 92 million girls aged 10 and above have undergone crude mutilations of their genitals
  • Genital mutilation is a violation of the human rights of girls and women

*The above is from a statement by the World Health Organisation


In many parts of Africa, not only is FGM practised but often girls as young as 12 are forced into marriage with older men.

When these men die, they leave behind young mothers with many children to feed and often their traditions forbid women to remarry. These women contemplate a future in poverty unless they can ‘marry off’ their young daughters in exchange for a ‘bride price’, usually a farm animal. As each daughter gets “married off”, she also has one less mouth to feed.

Child brides is another tradition that Rights of Girls is working to end.