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Home | Sexuelle Gesundheit & Rechte | Violation of the human rights
Violation of the human rights
Waris Dirie – Desert Flower
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"Female Mutilation has no cultural, no traditional and no religious aspect. It is a crime which seeks justice!"

Violation of the human rights of girls and women


Female Genital Mutilation


Some people have never heard of female genital mutilation (FGM). Of those who have, many think that it is an ancient procedure that is no longer practiced. Yet, unfortunately genital mutilation is practiced in many parts of the world today. For most of the African people it is not called mutilation, but it is a custom. A mother who doesn’t have the custom for her daughter dooms the daughter to being a social outcast and unmarriageable.

Female genital mutilation, also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as

"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."

The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18% of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and this trend is increasing. Female genital mutilation is classified into four major types.

Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).

Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" that surround the vagina).

Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.

Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

Some of the key facts of the WHO say that about 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM and that it’s mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.

In Africa an estimated 92 million girls 10 years old and above have undergone FGM.

The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and among migrants from these areas, particularly within some immigrant communities in Europe, North America, and Australasia.

The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities. Where FGM is a social convention, the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing is a strong motivation to perpetuate the practice. It is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman's libido and therefore believed to help her resist "illicit" sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed, the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage "illicit" sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM. Sometimes it’s associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are “clean” and "beautiful" after removal of body parts that are considered "male" or "unclean". Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support. Unfortunately in most societies, this dangerous practice is still considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.

There are no health benefits, but only hurt for the girls and women, such us pain, shock, bleeding, tetanus, bacterial infections, infertility, cysts, agonizing pain during intercourse, difficulty delivering babies, and many other terrible health complications and consequences. Also, FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. The practice also 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.

Since 1997, great efforts have been made to counteract FGM, through research, work within communities, and changes in public policy. For example, there were revised legal frameworks and growing political support to end FGM (this includes a law against FGM in 22 African countries, including Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin, as well as 12 industrialized countries with migrant populations from FGM practicing countries).

Some data are used from WHO Media Centre fact sheets