What is FGM?
According to the World Health Organization, FGM refers to:
‘procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons’.
It is sometimes called Female Genital Cutting or female circumcision. Traditional names include bondo, sande, sunna.
FGM is practised in about 28 African countries, the Middle East and South East Asia. The African countries with the highest prevalence rates of over 90% are Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about two million women and girls are cut every year around the world. According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), about 86,000 women and girls are affected by FGM each year in the UK. Hawa Trust is campaigning for the total elimination of FGM in the UK and Africa.
Methods Of FGM
Girls of Six to ten years have undergone FGM. Girls and young women are taken on holidays without knowing that they will undergo FGM.
FGM is normally performed in poor light without anaesthesia. During the FGM procedure, they use blades, knives, broken glass or non-surgical instruments which are shared among many girls. These girls have to be forcibly restrained, for example their legs may be tied together for several days for healing to take place.
Effects Of FGM
There are several effects of FGM ranging from inability to give birth to even death. The most common effects include haemorrhage, septicaemia, tetanus, urine retention, vaginal fistulae, ulceration of the genital region, risk of HIV infection, abscesses, scarring/keloid formation, dysmennorrhoea and haematocolpus (obstruction of menstrual flow), obstruction to urinary flow, urinary tract infection.
FGM also causes psychosocial trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, vaginal closure due to scarring, neuromata (cut nerve endings causing permanent pain), pain and chronic infection from obstruction to menstrual flow, painful intercourse (dyspareunia), lack of pleasurable sensations and orgasm.
There is also risk of infertility from pelvic inflammatory disease and obstructed genital tract, childbirth trauma – perineal tears and vaginal fistulae, prolonged or obstructed labour from uterine inertia or rupture, and death of infant and mother.
FGM is a crime in the UK. Legislation includes the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 and the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. Scotland has passed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005. Thus it is a criminal offence for anyone to perform, aid, abet, or counsel to procure FGM. It is also illegal to take a child out of the country to perform FGM.
Through the Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003) the law protects any girl who is a UK national or permanent resident from FGM anywhere in the world. The penalty has been increased from 5 to 14 years’ imprisonment. There has however, never been a criminal conviction for FGM.