FGM, also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is a violation of human rights that must be stopped. Together, we can end female genital mutilation in a generation – by 2030.
FGM in figures
- 3 million girls are at risk every year in Africa.
- 20,000 girls in the UK are at risk of FGM every year.
- 101 million girls aged 10 and above in Africa have undergone FGM.
- 125 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM.
What's the problem with FGM?
- FGM causes severe pain. It can result in bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.
- It is one form of violence against women and girls.
- FGM is a harmful traditional practice that often means girls are taken out of school.
What we do
Plan works with communities across the globe to raise awareness of FGM's harmful effects and promote gender equality. We protect the rights of girls and women who are at risk of FGM. We also help and support FGM survivors.
- Ensuring women are aware of the harmful effects of FGM is a particularly important step towards ending FGM, as it is usually women who do the cutting. Many mothers are under pressure to ensure FGM is practised on their daughters. However, working with men and boys is equally important as they often have greater power and influence in their communities.
- Plan works to ensure there is better legal protection for girls and women. We work with government bodies to help them understand how FGM violates women's and children's rights and fulfil their responsibility for implementing laws and programmes to end it.
- Plan provides support and advice to those living with the consequences of FGM. We train local health workers and traditional practitioners on the importance of girls' and women's rights and how to provide better medical and psychological support to survivors of FGM.
FGM in detail
Why is FGM happening?
FGM is a global problem that needs a global solution. It is practised in many countries by diverse groups. The reasons why FGM persists are varied and complex, but it is a consequence of the power imbalance between men and women.
Why is it done?
In most countries where the tradition is widely practised, FGM is seen as a requirement for achieving a 'good marriage match', because it is associated with purity and virginity. Community leaders also encourage the practice as part of cultural identity and sometimes use religion as a justification – although the practice is not prescribed by any religion and there are no guidelines for the cutting of female genitals in any religious text.
What are the consequences of FGM?
The procedure is traditionally carried out by a woman with no medical training and using basic tools such as knives, scissors or even pieces of glass and razor blades. The immediate consequences of FGM are severe pain and infection. Sometimes girls and women can suffer complications such as urine retention, injury to adjacent tissue or fatal haemorrhaging.
Girls and women go on to experience pain for many years after they undergo FGM, during sexual activity and particularly in childbirth. This incessant pain coupled with the trauma suffered during cutting, means the practice also has deep psychological implications for many girls and women.
Women and girls who have undergone FGM are:
- Twice as likely to die during childbirth
- More likely to give birth to a stillborn baby than other women as a result of obstructed labour
- More susceptible to obstetric fistula (a severe medical condition that leads to incontinence)
- More susceptible to uterine, vaginal and pelvic infections
- More prone to suffering psychological damage and post-traumatic stress
- Likely to suffer extensive damage of the external reproductive system and sexual dysfunction.
Is FGM legal?
FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The UN General Assembly has now adopted a Resolution banning Female Genital Mutilation, which calls the practice harmful and a serious threat to the psychological, sexual and reproductive health of women and girls.
Some countries, like the UK, France and Liberia have in place the necessary legislation to make FGM illegal. But there are still countries where FGM is legal, for example Sierra Leone. Even in countries like Somalia, which has recently declared FGM illegal, it will take years before the law is actually implemented as many communities refuse to give up this deeply rooted cultural tradition.
FGM is usually performed on girls and women without their permission and often against their will. This means that the practice contravenes several international and regional treaties including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
Sources and further information
The Orchid Project: Why FGM Happens
The Orchid Project: Impacts