Female Genital Mutilation / Cutting
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of external portions of or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. More than 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone FGM/C according to the World Health Organization. While reports suggest that the rate at which FGM/C is practiced is dropping in some areas, as many as 30 million girls under the age of 15 may still be at risk for the procedure. 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 to North America and Europe.
Why is FGM/C performed?
The reasons why FGM/C is performed vary from one region to another as well as over time, and include a mix of sociocultural factors that play out in families and communities. Some of the most commonly cited reasons are rooted in the fact that FGM/C has become a social norm and therefore there is pressure to conform.
- It is considered a necessary part of raising a girl
- It is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behaviour - i.e., lessening female sexual pleasure
- It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity
- It is thought to increase marriageability
- It is is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty
Who performs it?
FGM/C is mostly carried out by traditional practitioners, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, health care providers now perform more than 18 percent of all FGM/C in countries where it is traditionally practiced, and the trend towards "medicalization" is increasing. Health care providers need support and training to abandon the practice, which can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems, regardless of who performs it.
How will it be eliminated?
To eliminate FGM/C, WHO and other leading international health organizations favor an approach which:
- Enlightens individuals and families about the physical and mental health problems caused by FGM/C
- Strengthens communities to eliminate FGM/C
- Strengthens the health sector response
- Builds evidence
- Increases advocacy
- Works to change national policies
Social and behavior change communication (SBCC) has been critical in:
- Changing social norms
- Mobilizing community action
- Advancing human rights and gender issues
- Informing the public
- Motivating health care workers
- Educating community and religious leaders about the serious dangers caused by this practice
- Raising awareness about the role of social norms and gender inequalities that underlie the practice
- Reaching a variety of groups including leaders, men, women, and youth (girls and boys) in order to engage many audiences in the effort to change the social norm
- FGM: The Scope of the Problem in Graphics and Numbers
- Health Risks of FGM
- Fact Sheet on FGM
- FGM Infographics
Tools for Program Design
Changing Social Norms
- Manual on Social Norms and Change
- Behavior Change to End FGM
- Female Genital Mutilation and Behaviour Change
Reaching Key Audiences
- Toolkit for Engaging Midwives in the Global Campaign to End FGM
- Global Strategy to Stop Health-Care Providers from Performing Female Genital Mutilation
- Responding to Female Genital Mutilation: A Guide for Key Professionals
- WHO Guidelines on the Management of Health Complications from Female Genital Mutilation
Reaching Key Audiences
- Female Genital Mutilation: Frequently Asked Questions: A Campaigner’s Guide for Young People
- Say No to FGM
- Cuttin' It Radio Drama on FGM
- Radio Programs on FGM - Ethiopia
Banner photo: Adolescent girls in Ghana participate in a livelihood training aimed at reducing adoption of Female Genital Cutting (FGC). © 2003 Melissa May, Courtesy of Photoshare
The REPLACE project in the EU recognizes that FGM is a social norm and that each community has different belief systems and enforcement mechanisms supporting its continuation.
This manual is meant for training program managers to promote the abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). It has been designed under a joint program of the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
This global strategy against medicalization of female genital mutilation (FGM) has been developed in collaboration with key stakeholders, including UN organizations and health-care professional bodies, national governments and NGOs.
Midwives play a key role not only in averting maternal and newborn deaths, but also in promoting good health in communities as a whole. FGM is a deeply entrenched cultural practice and many midwives face significant social pressure from the community to perform it.
This fact sheet provides information and statistics about:
- The prevalence of FGM
- Different types of FGM
- Statistics about efforts to stop FGM
This fact sheet provides the basic information about the many health risks of FGM/C, including short term and long term health problems.
These guidelines are intended primarily for health-care professionals involved in the care of girls and women who have been subjected to any form of female genital mutilation (FGM).
This brochure is directed to many kinds of professionals who deal with young women/girls who have undergone FGM, including police, teachers, and medical professionals. The brochure offers several situations and offers advice as to how to handle them.
This brief two pager summarizes several SBCC approaches regarding FGM.
Listed are ideas for behavior change through:
This sheet provides basic information about the status of FGM/C worldwide.
It includes information on the various procedures used, possible health complications, the population at risk, cultural factors, international response,
The Saleema Initiative in Sudan provides positive communication tools that support the protection of girls from genital cutting, particularly in the context of efforts to promote collective abandonment of the practice at community level.
Tostan. an African-based organization working directly with rural communities leading their own development, utilizes the "Community Empowerment Program (CEP) " to effect change in these communities.
This pamphlets explains that FGM is not an Islamic practice or requirement. It states that there is no reference to it in the Koran, nor is there any authentic reference in the Sunnah, the sayings or traditions of Mohammed. It goes on to list the many dangers of FGM, and also provides resources for more information and for support.
An estimated 18% of FGM/C cases are being performed by professionally trained health workers. This number has risen due to the widespread growth of knowledge about the possible health problems associated with FGM/C.
ForwardUK works in the UK, Europe and Africa to safeguard girls at risk of FGM and support women affected. They do this through direct community engagement, advocacy and strategic partnerships. These videos were produced as part of ForwardUK's projects:
YPSO (Young People Speak Out) is a project within FORWARDUK’s Youth Program which trains young people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities to become campaigners and peer-educators on violence against women and girls, including FGM.
This poster was designed to spread the word that FGM is illegal in the UK. The poster says that it is also an offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out FGM abroad or to assist the carrying out of FGM abroad.
This pamphlet is available in several languages, and spells out the types of FGM, health problems associated with it, FGM and religion, and where to get help.
Published by the Ministry of Health, the National Plan of Action describes the sensitive and responsive interventions and strategies for achieving the goal of reducing the number of girls, women and families that will be affected by female genital mutilation over 20 years.
In this radio drama, two Somali teenagers, Muna and Iqra, go to the same school in South London. They are from the same place but they are strangers; strangers who share a secret embedded in their culture - both were victims of FGM.