What is female circumcision?
Officially, female circumcision is called female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons (source: WHO).
In the Netherlands, Pharos, the Dutch Centre of Expertise on Health Disparities, has taken up the fight against FGM.
Types of circumcision
The World Health Organization (WHO) distinguishes four types of circumcision:
Type 1: partial or total removal of the clitoral glans, and/or the prepuce/ clitoral hood.
Type 2: partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the labia minora, with or without removal of the labia majora.
Type 3: excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation).
Type 4: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
Here (pdf, page 55) you can find some drawings of circumcised vulvas.
psychological problems (grief, anger, etc.)
pain during sex, no interest in sex, vaginismus
fear of sex and childbirth
painful menstruations and difficulty in passing menstrual blood
urinary tract infections
pregnancy and childbirth complications
Women in all societies have been subjected to beauty rituals and sexual rules since time immemorial. It plays a role in female circumcision. At a later stage, religion also started to play a role. These are the most commonly cited reasons:
Circumcision reduces a woman's libido and ensures marital fidelity.
- Circumcision increases marriageability.
Circumcised girls are clean and beautiful.
Circumcision is a social norm.
Circumcision has religious support.
High-risk countries and prevalence
Female circumcision takes place all around the world. It is practised as a tradition in 26 countries of so-called Black Africa, in 15 countries in the Middle East and Asia, and in 2 countries in South America.
But it also takes place in other countries, including the Netherlands, as immigrants take this custom with them. On this map (pdf, page 141) you can find more information about prevalence in Africa, where it is highest.