While the exact number is unknown, at least 200 million girls and women in 30 countries throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia have been subjected to female genital mutilation, or FGM, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
According to the statement of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), FGM is commonly practised in Africa, Middle East and Asia. Especially in some majority-Muslim countries in Africa, FGM has been seen as a religious necessity despite there being no verse in the Koran referring to the issue.
German authorities have stated that there are about 50,000 women who have been subjected to FGM, mostly originated from Eritrea, Iraq, Somali, Egypt and Ethiopia.
What is female genital mutilation/cutting?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) as the procedure performed on a woman or girl to alter or injure her genitalia for non-medical reasons. It most often involves the partial or total removal of her external genitalia. In some communities, FGM/C may be commonly referred to as ‘female circumcision’. However this term has been criticised as it can normalise the practice by drawing parallels with male circumcision without distinguishing its serious physical and psychological harm.
The WHO underscores that it not only provides no health benefits, but may lead to a life-time of obstacles. Furthermore, the majority of females who have been subjected to the practice are between infancy and the age of 15.
Why is it practised?
In many of the countries where female genital mutilation is performed, it is a deeply entrenched social norm rooted in gender inequality. The reasons behind the practice vary. In some cases, it is seen as a rite of passage into womanhood, while others see it as a way to suppress a woman’s sexuality. Many communities practise genital mutilation in the belief that it will ensure a girl’s proper upbringing, future marriage or family honour. Some also associate it with religious beliefs, although no religious scriptures require it.