What Is Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)?

Female genital mutilation/cutting, or FGM/C, is the practice of partially or totally removing the external genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons.

FGM/C is usually carried out between infancy and age 15 before puberty starts and is traditionally performed by a local woman with no medical training using knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades and without anaesthetics or antibiotics. Girls often have to be forcibly restrained which is in every way, shape and form a violation of their most basic human rights.


These are the four main types of FGM/C:

  • Type 1 – clitoridectomy – removing part or all of the clitoris.

  • Type 2 – 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).

  • Type 3 – infibulation – narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.

  • Other harmful procedures to the female genitals, which include pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping and burning the area.


Effects of FGM

There are no health benefits to FGM. Removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue interferes with the natural functions of girls' and women's bodies.

Immediate results include:

  • severe pain

  • shock

  • bleeding

  • wound infections, including tetanus and gangrene as well as blood-borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B and C.

  • inability to urinate

  • injury to vulval tissues surrounding the entrance to the vagina

  • damage to other organs nearby, such as the urethra (where urine passes) and the bowel

  • death

FGM Girl and Mother.jpg

Long-term consequences:

  • chronic vaginal and pelvic infections

  • abnormal periods

  • difficulties passing urine and persistent urine infections

  • kidney impairment and possible kidney failure

  • damage to the reproductive system, including infertility

  • cysts and the formation of scar tissue

  • complications in pregnancy and newborn deaths

  • pain during sex and lack of pleasurable sensation

  • psychological damage, including low libido, depression and anxiety

  • flashbacks during pregnancy and childbirth

  • the need for later surgery to open the lower vagina for sexual intercourse and childbirth


FGM/C is a feminist issue and VERVE works closely with organizations like Tostan and Fistula Foundation to once and for all put an end to this extremely violent and traumatic tradition which causes emotional and physical consequences that haunt victims for the rest of their lives.


Article by Anna Quick-Palmer