Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 1: Demography and Epidemiology of FGM

Female genital mutilation is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women as discussed in the Introduction, it is a criminal and potentially lethal, almost always harmful, assault, both on a person’s body and on her mind.

Whilst however there is no dispute about the status of this abuse, ascertaining with any precision the incidence of female genital mutilation in any location (including the UK) is difficult, given both its general illegality and the intimate nature of the practice itself. Estimations of how frequently FGM occurs, and of the likelihood of risk for given populations, inevitably require informed guesswork and a considerable degree of sensitivity to the issues as they are interrogated.  

The damage caused by FGM is intensely personal and private, and even more so because the subjects are (most usually) minors who cannot give meaningful consent either to the procedure itself, or to any subsequent proposed medical examination. 

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Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 5: Clinical Issues

Female genital mutilation, especially in its more extensive forms, is permanently scarring both physically and mentally. Its impacts are lifelong and often severe.

Sometimes FGM is fatal. Its victims do not always become ‘survivors’ in any sense of the word.

Some girls or women who undergo mutilation die in the immediate and short-term aftermath of the abuse, and later on more will die as a result of difficulties in childbirth or because of long-term conditions including fistula. Babies born to women with FGM are also at risk and sometimes die because of the obstetric complications it can cause.

The United Nations, the World Health Organization and many other international and professional bodies1 are unanimous in asserting there is no positive benefit to FGM. They insist unequivocally that it must never be promoted or conducted as a medical procedure – which happens for instance in Kenya, Indonesia, Egypt and Malaysia, and which routinely puts the lives and well-being of those who undergo it at risk.

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