International framework

"FGM 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."1 It is often part of a rite of passage marking a girl’s transition from childhood into womanhood. All forms of FGM are irreversible.2 FGM is a manifestation of gender inequality and „an act of violence against women and girls which constitutes a violation of their fundamental rights”.3

By 2030 all harmful practices, including FGM are to be eliminated (SDG 5.3).4

At least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries have been genitally mutilated.5

Alone in Africa 3 million girls are at risk of FGM every year.

Prevalence

% of women and girls who have undergone FGM7 (15-49 years old)

FGM is practiced in 27 African countries but also in the Middle East, some Asian countries and, as a result of migration, in many host countries around the globe.6

In most of the countries, the majority of girls were cut before age 5.

Negative Impacts

FGM causes women’s and girls’ physical, sexual and psychological harm:8

  • Intense pain, haemorrhage, urinary retention, infection.9
  • Sexual and reproductive health problems such as increased risk of HIV infection, complications during child birth, increased rates of infant and child mortality, etc.
  • Psychological trauma,10 anxiety and depression.11
  • FGM is an obstacle to development: it stunts the general potential of women and girls, their self-determination and their empowerment, with consequent negative impacts on national economic and social development.12

The most severe type of FGM results in:13

  • 30% more caesarian sections compared with women who have not had any FGM.
  • an increase of 70% in numbers of women who suffer from postpartum haemorrhage.
  • an increased need of 66% to resuscitate babies.
  • an increased (55%) death rate among babies during and immediately after birth.

Why it is practiced

FGM is justified on the basis of its supposed social and medical benefits; it is considered to be a religious duty or supposed to control women’s sexuality.14 24 of the 29 countries where FGM is concentrated have enacted decrees or legislation against FGM.15 Their implementation and enforcement remains weak.16

Social motives:
  • Tradition, respect for older generation, peer pressure, group identity and solidarity.17
  • Those, who do not undergo the practice, are often despised and ostracized.18
  • In some regions, only girls, who have been genitally mutilated are considered eligible for marriage and are valued as good wives.19
  • Many women and girls believe to gain social acceptance from FGM (e.g. 64% in Guinea).20
Religious motives:
  • Although, neither the Koran nor the Bible prescribes the practice, FGM is justified as a religious stricture or obligation.21
  • A large percentage of women and girls regard FGM as a religious requirement (e.g. more than 50% in Mali, Eritrea, Mauretania and Guinea)22; the belief is often widespread also amongst boys and men (in Mauretania, 60% of them think FGM is required by religion).23
Aesthetical and medical motives:
  • In some regions, the female body is considered more pleasing, when cut.24
  • Many people believe that FGM preserves virginity (e.g. 31% of women and girls in Mauretania).25
Social motives
Religious motives
Aesthetical and medical motives
  1. WHO 2014: “Female Genital Mutilation. Factsheet No. 241”. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/.
  2. GIZ Fact Sheet 2011: “What is Female Genital Mutilation?“. http://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2011-en-fgm-was-ist-fgm.pdf.
  3. European Parliament Resolution 2012/2684/(RSP): “Ending female genital mutilation”. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&language=EN&reference=P7-TA-2012-261. See also WHO 2008: “Eliminating female genital mutilation. An interagency statement. (UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCHR,UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WHO)”. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw52/statements_missions/Interagency_Statement_on_Eliminating_FGM.pdf.
  4. UN (2015): Transformation unserer Welt: Die Agenda 2030 für nachhaltige Entwicklung. http://www.un.org/depts/german/gv-70/a70-l1.pdf; p.20
  5. UNICEF (2016): “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern”. https://www.unicef.org/media/files/FGMC_2016_brochure_final_UNICEF_SPREAD.pdf
  6. GIZ Fact Sheet 2011: “Female Genital Mutilation and Violence Against Women“. http://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2011-en-fgm-gewalt-beenden.pdf; UNICEF 2013: “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change”. http://www.unicef.org/media/files/FGCM_Lo_res.pdf p. 2f.
  7. WHO (2016): “Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)”. http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/prevalence/en/.
  8. GIZ Fact Sheet 2011: “Female Genital Mutilation and Violence Against Women“. http://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2011-en-fgm-gewalt-beenden.pdf.
  9. GIZ Fact Sheet 2011: “What is Female Genital Mutilation?“. http://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2011-en-fgm-was-ist-fgm.pdf.
  10. GIZ Fact Sheet 2011: “What is Female Genital Mutilation?“. http://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2011-en-fgm-was-ist-fgm.pdf.
  11. GIZ Expertise: “Ending female genital mutilation and strengthening human rights. Background”. http://www.giz.de/expertise/html/6194.html.
  12. GIZ Expertise: “Ending female genital mutilation and strengthening human rights. Background”. http://www.giz.de/expertise/html/6194.html.
  13. WHO 2006: “New study shows female genital mutilation exposes women and babies to significant risk at childbirth”. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr30/en/.
  14. GIZ Fact Sheet 2011: “Female Genital Mutilation and Violence Against Women“. http://www.giz.de/expertise/downloads/giz2011-en-fgm-gewalt-beenden.pdf.
  15. UNICEF 2013: “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change”. http://www.unicef.org/media/files/FGCM_Lo_res.pdf p. 9.
  16. GIZ Fact Sheet 2011: “Female Genital Mutilation and Legislation“. http://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2011-en-fgm-gesetzgebung.pdf.
  17. GIZ Expertise: “Ending female genital mutilation and strengthening human rights. Background”. http://www.giz.de/expertise/html/6194.html.
  18. GIZ Expertise: “Ending female genital mutilation and strengthening human rights. Background”. http://www.giz.de/expertise/html/6194.html.
  19. GIZ Expertise: “Ending female genital mutilation and strengthening human rights. Background”. http://www.giz.de/expertise/html/6194.html.
  20. UNICEF 2013: “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change”. http://www.unicef.org/media/files/FGCM_Lo_res.pdf p. 67.
  21. GIZ Expertise: “Ending female genital mutilation and strengthening human rights. Background”. http://www.giz.de/expertise/html/6194.html.
  22. UNICEF 2013: “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change”. http://www.unicef.org/media/files/FGCM_Lo_res.pdf p. 71.
  23. UNICEF 2013: “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change”. http://www.unicef.org/media/files/FGCM_Lo_res.pdf 1st doublepage.
  24. GIZ Expertise: “Ending female genital mutilation and strengthening human rights. Background”. http://www.giz.de/expertise/html/6194.html.
  25. UNICEF 2013: “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change”. http://www.unicef.org/media/files/FGCM_Lo_res.pdf p. 67.