Female Genital Mutilation - Why FGM is practiced?

Female Genital Mutilation, or FMG, is a practice in which a woman’s external genitalia is partially or totally removed. Cultural reasons are the most common cited reasons for its performance.


‘It’s a man’s world’- all girls have heard this saying at one point or another in their lives. The way the current world functions, men are considered far more important than women and women’s are sought to be controlled. According to statistics by the World Health Organization, between 100 million and 140 million women across the world are affected by FGM.

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation or Female Circumcision is defined by WHO as, “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Although widely accepted as a norm among a lot communities, the UN and other organizations have recognized it as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against woman.

FGM offers absolutely no health benefits. The procedure is concentrated in 27 African countries, Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan, and found elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, and among diaspora communities around the world. The procedure also differs depending on the country. This has resulted in the WHO has divided the process into four types of FGM.

According to the website, the four parts are as follows:

  • Type I, also known as clitoridectomy: It is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce.
  • Type II, also called excision: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora. The amount of tissue that is removed varies widely from community to community.
  • Type III, also called infibulation: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and re-positioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora. This can take place with or without removal of the clitoris.
  • Type IV: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping or cauterization.

Why is Female Genital Mutilation performed?

There are various reasons that have been provided for performing such a procedure, including cultural and religious reasons. The most common reasons that have been provided are:

Control over woman’s sexuality: In small communities such as these, virginity is considered a very important factor that can make and break a marriage or even a girl’s reputation in the community. It is believed that the removal of the genitalia will suppress the woman’s sexual urges and will result in remaining pure until her marriage.

Hygiene: The women’s genitals are considered unhygienic and impure until the procedure is performed. In some practicing societies, women are treated as untouchables and not allowed to handle food and water.   

Completion to womanhood: It is deemed as an initiation process into womanhood. The woman is not considered as a marriage worthy woman until she has undergone this procedure. It is also to mark the roles of the gender in the society. Some communities consider the clitoris and the labia as ‘male parts’ of a woman’s body. The removal of these parts are believed to subdue her sexual desires and making her a woman – whose job is to be docile and obedient.

Community: In other communities, the woman is not considered as an adulthood until she is mutilated. It is something considered similar to puberty and is also performed around that time.

Religion: Certain cultures associate the mutilation with religion, believing it is a part of their religion for the woman to have her genitals removed. However, no link has been found between religion and FMG.

Currently WHO and UN are working with many local and national organizations to ban the procedure of FMG and to also try and educate the people about the harms of getting such as procedure done.

Image Courtesy: hngn.com

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