What is Female Genital Mutilation?
FGM. Female Genital Mutilation comprises 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 (WHO). It is also sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision.
Do women have to get circumcised?
Excision entails cutting or removing part or all of the clitoris with or without the labia minora and majora. Some women have only the clitoral prepuce removed. Infibulation (radical circumcision) is excision accompanied by suturing closed the introitus leaving a small opening for passage of urine and menstrual blood.
There are no health benefits to FGM and it can cause serious harm, including:
- constant pain
- pain and/or difficulty having sex
- repeated infections, which can lead to infertility
- bleeding, cysts and abscesses
- problems passing urine or incontinence
- depression, flashbacks and self-harm
- problems during labour and childbirth, which can be life-threatening for mother and baby
Some girls die from blood loss or infection as a direct result of the procedure.
Types of FGM:
Type 1 – removing some or all of the clitoris
Type 2 – removing some or all of both the clitoris and the small labia (the “lips” that surround the vagina).
Type 3 – removing some or all of the female genitalia, including the clitoris. Sewing the edges together to leave a small hole.
Type 4 – all other types of harm, including cutting, burning, scraping, pricking and stretching the female genitals.
Treatment for FGM (deinfibulation)
Surgery can be performed to open up the vagina, if necessary. This is called deinfibulation.
It’s sometimes known as a “reversal” although this name is misleading, as the procedure doesn’t replace any removed tissue, and will not undo the damage caused. However, it can help many problems caused by FGM.
Surgery may be recommended for:
- women who are unable to have sex or have difficulty passing urine as a result of FGM
- pregnant women at risk of problems during labour or delivery as a result of FGM
Deinfibulation should be carried out before getting pregnant, if possible. It can be done in pregnancy or labour if necessary, but ideally should be done before the last two months of pregnancy. The surgery involves making a cut (incision) to open the scar tissue over the entrance to the vagina.
It’s usually performed under local anaesthetic in a clinic and you won’t normally need to stay overnight. A small number of women need either a general anaesthetic or spinal anaesthetic (injection in the back), which may involve a short stay in hospital.