What is Female Genital Mutilation?
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the term for “all procedures involving the cutting or removal of external female genitalia for cultural or other non therapeutic reasons” (WHO 2010).
The different types of female genital mutilation known to be practised are as follows:
- Type I Excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris.
- Type II Excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora.
- Type III Excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation).
- Type IV Unclassified: includes pricking, piercing or incising of the clitoris and/or labia, stretching of the clitoris and/or labia, cauterisation or introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina.
What are the consequences of FGM?
There is a wide range of complications associated with FGM, and these vary depending on the type of FGM. They can include the following:
Short term complications
Bleeding, infection, pain, shock, tetanus and damage to other genital areas.
Long term complications
Urinary infections, cysts, fistulas, infertility, painful menstruation, abscesses, and pelvic infections.
Difficulties with internal examinations during pregnancy and labour, prolonged labour, difficulties with delivery, bleeding at delivery and obstructed delivery which can lead to death of the baby.
Fear and pain associated with sexual intercourse, difficulty or inability to have sexual intercourse, and decreased sexual pleasure and frigidity.
In addition, some women may experience negative psychological effects such as anxiety, fear, lack of trust and difficulty with body image.
Why is FGM performed?
Reduction or elimination of the outer genital organs is believed to attenuate sexual desire in a girl/woman, maintain her chastity and virginity before marriage, maintain fidelity during marriage, and increase male sexual pleasure.
FGM is commonly linked with identification with the cultural heritage, initiation of girls into womanhood, social integration, the maintenance of social cohesion, and family honour.
Hygiene and aesthetic reasons
The external female genitalia are considered by many groups to be dirty and unsightly and are removed to promote hygiene and provide aesthetic appeal.
FGM is believed to promote fertility, the child’s good health and child survival. It is also commonly believed that the clitoris is dangerous and unless removed it will poison a child at birth or grow long and dangle down.
FGM is practised by Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Coptics and animists. It has frequently been carried out by some Muslim communities in the genuine belief that it is demanded by the Islamic faith, however, the practice of FGM predates Islam and there is no substantive evidence that it is an Islamic religious requirement.
How many women and girls are affected by FGM?
How long has FGM been practiced?
How is FGM performed?
What age is FGM performed?
Is FGM a religious requirement?
Is FGM illegal in Africa and other countries?
Of the 29 countries in Africa where FGM is traditionally practiced, 26 have laws prohibiting FGM. Among these, penalties range from monetary fines to a minimum of three months to life in prison, but many countries struggle to enforce these penalties.
Is FGM practised in New Zealand?
Is FGM illegal in New Zealand?
This means it is against the law to:
- circumcise a woman, girl or female baby
- remove or cut out any part of the female genital area
- stitch up the female genital area
- cut the clitoris or part of the clitoris
- damage the female genital area in other ways
It is against the law to perform FGM even if the woman or girl wants it to be done.
Why is FGM illegal in New Zealand?
FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects inequality between the sexes, is a form of discrimination against women and is harmful to the health of women and girls. It is nearly always carried out on minors and 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. New Zealand is also a signatory to the following International Instruments and conventions that encourage and oblige us to action against FGM:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25).
- The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (Articles 2f, 5a,12).
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 2, 19.2, 24.1, 37a, 24.3).