FGM stands for female genital mutilation. A wide spread practice to initiate women, for cultural or religious reasons, by cutting away part or the whole of their clitoris. In some more extreme cases the outer lips are cut away, sometimes they are sown shut, other it leads to labia adhesion and the need to repeated FGM.
Between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world are estimated to have undergone such procedures, and 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedures every year.
It is widespread in Africa and known to take place in some countries in Asia and Latin America. It is also prevalent among certain immigrant communities in North America and Europe.
Female genital mutilation has no known health benefits.
On the contrary, it is known to be harmful to girls and women in many ways. First and foremost, it is painful and traumatic. Normally practiced outside of a medically setting, many women die from shock, bleeding or infection. It interferes with the natural functioning of the body leading to pain and/or blood loss both during sex, menstruation, urination and childbirth, as well as increased urinary track infections, sexually transmitted infections and exposure to HIV/aids. What is perhaps less knows is that it also endangers the life of their unborn, as babies born to women who have undergone female genital mutilation suffer a higher rate of neonatal death compared with babies born to women who have not undergone the procedure. The incidences of caesarean section and postpartum haemorrhage are also substantially increased.
Seen from a human rights perspective, the practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. Female genital mutilation is nearly always carried out on minors and is therefore a violation of the rights of the child. The practice also violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
Despite some successes, the overall rate of decline in the prevalence of female genital mutilation has been slow. Penalisation of the practice has often led to it being hidden and the children being denied healthcare in order to avoid confrontation with the law.
source: Elimination Female Genital Mutilation interagency statement, UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNECA, UNESCO, UNIFEM, WHO