Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Times Are Changing

Female genital cutting or mutilation, also known as FGC or FGM, involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is typically performed on girls under 15 years of age although this varies across communities and can sometimes be carried out during the first weeks of life or occasionally in adulthood.

Female genital cutting is a serious reproductive health concern and a human rights violation. It has devastating short- and long-term consequences on the lives of women and girls and their communities. Female genital cutting can lead to hemorrhaging, infections, damage to adjoining organs, infertility, complications during pregnancy and childbirth, psychological trauma, and even death.

Worldwide, between 100 million and 140 million women have been cut, and 3 million more are at risk each year. Women are subjected to female genital cutting in 28 countries in Africa – this includes Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in East and Southern Africa. Female genital cutting is a practice that is deeply-rooted in tradition in communities where it is practiced and passed on through generations. It is frequently based on the belief that the practice helps control a girl’s sexuality and ensures her virginity until marriage or helps prepare her for marriage.

Female genital cutting is becoming less common, with more than 24,000 communities around the world declaring abandonment of the practice. Locally-led efforts that help recognize the harm of female genital cutting through community discussions are making a difference as more and more families decide not to cut their daughters.