Female genital mutilation (FGM) describes intentional damage
done to healthy female genitals. All female genital
mutilation is illegal in the United Kingdom. It can
include these things:
- Circumcision may involve removing the head of
the clitoris or it can be used to describe more extensive
- Excision can involve the removal of the
clitoris, prepuse and labia minora.
- Infibulation, also known as pharaonic
circumcision, is a more drastic procedure, and may be carried out
at any age up until marriage. It may involve the removal of the
entire external genitalia. It is a particularly severe and damaging
practice often undertaken without anaesthetic and in unhygienic
conditions. It is often carried out by other female family members
or a traditional "circumciser" in the community. Afterwards, the
vagina is stitched up, leaving a very small opening to allow
passage of urine and menstrual discharge. It is left closed until
marriage, at which time it is cut open to allow penetrative sex.
This is usually painful for the woman due to scar tissue
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a culturally acceptable and
very common practise in some parts of the world. The immediate and
short term physical effects of mutilation, depending upon the
extent, can result in:
- Severe pain
- Septicaemia (blood poisoning)
- The longer term physical effects include difficulties with
sexual, reproductive and general health.
The trauma both in the short and long term is highly likely to
include major psychological damage, which may show itself in a
variety of sexual problems, depression and behavioural
The World Health Organisation has made it clear that FGM
is an unacceptable practice which is damaging to women and that
every effort should be made to discourage it.
De-infibulation, the reversal of the procedure, is encouraged in
order to prevent ongoing and further health problems. If you have
undergone this practice and you wish to have it reversed then your
doctor will arrange the specialist care that this needs. Remember,
it is not illegal to have this reversal done and your doctor will
be more than happy to assist in its reversal.
If it becomes clear that a child may be at risk of this being done
then action must be undertaken to protect the
child. This is likely to involve referral to Social Work
Services who have a legal duty to intervene. If the procedure is
arranged abroad and the child returned to the United Kingdom action
is likely to be taken to ensure its future safety and that of other
children in the family.
If you feel you need to protect yourself or someone else from
this being done to them you can speak to your doctor, a social
worker or other health counsellor at a sexual health clinic who
will help you.
Social pressure to have the mutilation done may be overwhelming
in your family or community and very difficult to resist. But you
can use the support that is available to you to protect yourself
and any other child or young woman affected.
- The Sandyford clinics can provide you with all the
information and help you need. Click on Sandyford
Clinics for more information.