Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

This is a practice in some African and Asian countries which involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons (including social, religious and cultural). There are four types of FGM:

  • Excision – removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (lips that surround the vagina), with or without  removal of the labia majora (larger outer lips)
  • Clitoridectomy – removing the clitoris
  • Prickling, piercing, cutting, scraping and burning the genitalia
  • Infibulation – narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.


It makes a woman more susceptible to infections (tetanus, hepatitis B and C, gangrene), cysts, bleeding, sexual difficulties, pain, urinary tract problems, abnormal periods, kidney problems, problems with sexual arousal, complications during pregnancy and birth, as well as scarring.

The effects of FGM may be surgically repaired by opening up the labia and removing scar tissue, however sensation cannot be restored. Furthermore, if a woman is pregnant the reversal needs to be carried out before 36 weeks gestation as others there will be complications during the birth.

FGM can also have serious psychological consequences. The experience can be very traumatic and painful, particularly if performed at a young age where the child doesn’t understand what is happening. A woman is more likely to show symptoms of depression and anxiety, anger, poor body image, shame and in some cases, signs of trauma. It can also impede sexual pleasure, not only because of the physical damage caused but also because of the emotional aspects.