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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

The Female Genital Mutilation Project was developed in response to some the worst  health problems, rights and abuses that confront some of the women we work with both in UK and Africa. It falls under our Community Health Programme which is designed to promote public health; rights and advocacy by provide information, advice, training, referral and campaign  on health and reproductive issues such as HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, maternal and reproductive health, female genital mutilation, and malaria.
Our  programme vision is a world in which disadvantaged women and their communities are empowered to promote their interests, protect their rights and live free of perennial poverty, ill health, lack of decision-making powers and other forms of discrimination, violence and exploitation.

This project falls under five thematic areas:
  • Human rights
  • Capacity Building
  • Community Health
  • Advocacy and  Community Involvement
  • Project Support

Project Aims

The project is aimed at developing a participatory approach for sustainable empowerment of women to campaign against Female Genital mutilation.

The Project Objectives

  • To mobilise ethnic communities in UK affected by FGM and those at risk.
  • To address health issues that affect women who have undergone FGM and those at risk by developing information and education materials; and organizing seminars
  • To encourage women to seek medical services and to facilitate referral systems by providing such women with information on services
  • To organise community meetings through which dialogue will be developed to encourage women to say no to FGM
  • To organise empowerment training workshops
  • To conduct small focus group discussions with community members to evaluate change in behaviour ( behavioural  change communication)
  • To involve faith organizations in FGM advocacy and campaign
  • To involve  traditional  leaders and institutions  in Africa on prevention of FGM
  • To promote gender equality and empowerment of women
  • To carry out continuous monitoring and evaluation of FGM eradication through research, data collection, information dissemination and network development.

Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM) or female genital cutting refers to a number of practices which involve cutting away part or all of a girl’s external genitalia. Mutilated/cut infants, girls and women face irreversible lifelong health risks, among other consequences.

It is estimated that approximately 100-140 million African women have undergone FGM worldwide and each year, a further 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of the practice in Africa alone.  Recent trends indicate that FGM  is increasing in Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA, primarily among immigrants from Africa and southwestern Asia. 

FGM is practiced for a number of reasons including:
  • Sexual: to control or reduce female sexuality.
  • Sociological: for example, as an initiation for girls into womanhood, social integration and the maintenance of social cohesion.
  • Hygiene and aesthetic reasons: where it is believed that the female genitalia are dirty and unsightly.
  • Health: in the belief that it enhances fertility and child survival.
  • Religious reasons: in the mistaken belief that FGM/C is a religious requirement.

FGM is mainly performed on children and adolescents between four and 14 years of age. In some countries such as Ethiopia however, more than half of FGM/C is performed on infants under one year old.

Practitioners of FGM are generally traditional birth attendants or trained midwives. FGM is a highly-valued service with high financial rewards, and a practitioner's status in the community and income especially in Africa can be directly linked with performance of the operation.

FGM is a fundamental violation of the rights of girls. It is discriminatory and violates the rights to equal opportunities, health, and freedom from violence, injury, abuse, torture and cruel or inhuman and degrading treatment, protection from harmful traditional practices, and to make decisions concerning reproduction. These rights are protected in international law.
FGM does irreparable harm. It can result in death through severe bleeding leading to haemorrhagic shock, neurogenic shock as a result of pain and trauma, and severe, overwhelming infection and septicaemia. It is routinely traumatic. Many girls enter a state of shock induced by the severe pain, psychological trauma and exhaustion from screaming.

Other harmful effects include: failure to heal; abscess formation; cysts; excessive growth of scar tissue; urinary tract infection;   painful sexual intercourse; increased susceptibility to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases; reproductive tract infection; pelvic inflammatory diseases; infertility; painful menstruation; chronic urinary tract obstruction/ bladder stones; urinary incontinence; obstructed labour; increased risk of bleeding and infection during childbirth.

Female Genital Mutilation in UK (FGM) in UK

FGM is also practiced in the UK amongst members of migrant communities. It is estimated that up to 24,000 girls in the UK, under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM. FGM in the UK is mainly carry out by the migrant population especially people from countries where FGM is practiced. Specific risk factors that may heighten a child risk to FGM include: Socio –economic position of the family and the level of integration, presence of family members who have undergone FGM, prolonged absence from school, and the intention of long holidays usually in summer to countries where FGM is practiced.

The female genital mutilation act of 2003, makes it illegal to practice FGM in UK, to take a British residence or nationality to any country abroad for FGM whether or not it is lawful in that Country, makes it illegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad, and has a penalty of up to 14 years in Prison and or a fine.


FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

No health benefits, only harm

FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls' and women's bodies. Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue.

Who is at risk?

Procedures are mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15, and occasionally on adult women. In Africa, about three million girls are at risk for FGM annually. Between 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM. In Africa, about 92 million girls age 10 years and above are estimated to have undergone FGM according to WHO.

Cultural, religious and social causes

The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities.

Where FGM is a social convention, the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing is a strong motivation to perpetuate the practice.

FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.

FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman's libido, and thereby is further believed to help her resist "illicit" sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed (type 3 above), the fear of pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage "illicit" sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM.

FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and "beautiful" after removal of body parts that are considered "male" or "unclean".

Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.

Religious leaders take varying positions with regard to FGM: some promote it, some consider it irrelevant to religion, and others contribute to its elimination.

Local structures of power and authority, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice.

In most societies, FGM is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.

In some societies, recent adoption of the practice is linked to copying the traditions of neighbouring groups. Sometimes it has started as part of a wider religious or traditional revival movement.

In some societies, FGM is being practised by new groups when they move into areas where the local population practice FGM.

Human rights violated by female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation violates a series of well established human rights principles, norms and Standards, including the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex, the right to life when the procedure results in death, and  Female genital mutilation has been recognized as
discrimination based on sex because it is rooted in gender inequalities and power imbalances between men and women and inhibits women’s full and equal enjoyment of their human rights. It is a form of violence against girls and women, with physical and psychological consequences. Female genital mutilation deprives girls and women from making an independent decision about an intervention that has a lasting effect on their bodies and infringes on their autonomy and control over their lives.

The rights of the child

Because of children’s vulnerability and their need for care and support, human rights law grants them special protection. One of the guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the primary consideration of ‘the best interests of the child’. Parents who take the decision to submit their daughters to female genital mutilation perceive that the benefits to be gained from this procedure outweigh the risks involved. However, this perception cannot justify a permanent and potentially life-changing practice that constitutes a violation of girls’ fundamental human rights.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child refers to the evolving capacity of children to make decisions regarding matters that affect them. However, for female genital mutilation, even in cases where there is an apparent agreement or desire by girls to undergo the procedure, in reality it is the result of social pressure and community expectations and stems from the girls’ aspiration to be accepted as full members of the community. That is why a girl’s decision to undergo female genital mutilation cannot be called free, informed or free of coercion.

International response

In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a joint statement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) against the practice of FGM. A new statement, with wider United Nations support, was then issued in February 2008 to support increased advocacy for the abandonment of FGM.

The 2008 statement documents new evidence collected over the past decade about the practice. It highlights the increased recognition of the human rights and legal dimensions of the problem and provides current data on the frequency and scope of FGM. It also summarizes research about why FGM continues, how to stop it, and its damaging effects on the health of women, girls and newborn babies.

The African Union’s Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, and its Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa constitute a major contribution to the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of female genital mutilation.
Since 1997, great efforts have been made to counteract FGM, through research, work within communities, and changes in public policy.
Progress at both international and local levels includes:
  • wider international involvement to stop FGM;
  • the development of international monitoring bodies and resolutions that condemn the practice;
  • revised legal frameworks and growing political support to end FGM; and
  • in some countries, decreasing practice of FGM, and an increasing number of women and men in practising communities who declare their support to end it.

Research shows that, if practising communities themselves decide to abandon FGM, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly.

Click  the following links for  information, publications and resources on FGM or download our FGM Fact Sheet and FGM Information Packs below.

Information Pack 1

Information Pack 2

Information Pack 3

Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 -
An Act to restate and amend the law relating to female genital mutilation; and for connected purposes.

UK fails to halt female genital mutilation - Home News, UK - The ...
 Hundreds of British schoolgirls are facing the terrifying prospect of female
genital mutilation (FGM) over the Christmas holidays as experts

Thousands of girls mutilated in Britain - Times Online
A lot of them are done in the UK, but some still travel overseas,she ...
Female genital mutilation has nothing to do with tradition, ...

Pickled Politics » Female genital mutilation in Britain
Female genital mutilation in Britain

The unspeakable practice of female circumcision that's destroying ...
Under the 2003 Female Genital Mutilation Act, those involved could be

'Rise in female genital mutilation' in London
The number of cases of female genital mutilation reported in London has risen and some operations are happening in the city, a campaigner ...

BBC News - 'Rise in female genital mutilation' in London Video
Watch BBC News - 'Rise in female genital mutilation' in London and thousands of other similar videos from around the web.

Female circumcision growing in Britain despite being illegal ...
Female circumcision growing in Britain despite being illegal ..... female
genital mutilation can be analagous to male circumcision ...

Battling Female Genital Mutilation
8 Jan 2010 ... Kigali Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Lesotho and Sierra Leone have numerous cases of female genital mutilation in Africa. ... -

Uganda calls for Africa to outlaw female genital mutilation ...
Uganda has called for the whole of Africa to stop the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

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