There is a growing global drive to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) in a generation. Tuesday marks International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.
Here are some facts:
- An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM. In Africa, it is thought 3 million girls are at risk every year.
- FGM is known to be prevalent in nearly 30 African countries, Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan and Indonesia. There is growing evidence it exists in many more Asian and Middle Eastern countries than previously thought. It is also found in industrialised countries among some immigrant populations.
- Countries where the practice is near universal include Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and Guinea.
- There are several types of FGM. The ritual usually involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia including the clitoris. The vaginal opening may also be sewn up or sealed. Other procedures include pricking or nicking the clitoris or clitoral hood.
- FGM is mostly carried out between infancy and 15, and is arranged by the women in the family.
- It is usually performed by traditional cutters using anything from razor blades to ceremonial knives. There is a trend in some countries like Egypt and Indonesia for medical staff to perform FGM.
- FGM is practised by both Muslim and Christian communities and by followers of some indigenous religions. People often believe FGM is required by religion, but it is not mentioned in the Koran or Bible.
- It is underpinned by the desire to control female sexuality, but beliefs around the practice vary enormously. Religion, tradition and hygiene are some of the reasons given. Many believe it purifies the girl, brings her status in the community and prevents promiscuity. Uncut girls risk being ostracised.
- FGM can cause chronic pain, menstrual problems, recurrent urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility. Some girls haemorrhage to death or die from infections. It can also cause fatal childbirth complications in later life.
- It has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other psychological disturbances.
- FGM has been banned in most African countries affected by the practice. But enforcement of the law is usually weak and prosecutions rare. It is legal in Mali, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
- FGM violates several international treaties. In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on eliminating FGM.
Sources: WHO, UNICEF, Equality Now, Orchid Project