Motivations and risks

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a severe violation of human rights and expression of oppression, degradation, occupation and economic utilisation of women and girls. If a child gets its clitoris cut off, this child learns that its own body is flawed. Because the mutilation takes place to reduce sensations of pleasure in girls, they learn that their wishes, fantasies and needs are reprehensible and they themselves are inferior because of their sex.

Female genital mutilation is the manifestation of a misogynistic system in which girls and women are not equal, independent and free, but obliged and forced to serve their families.

Four reasons for female genital mutilation

Its advocates judge FGM from inside their culture and see enough alleged advantages to continue the practice. The motivations can be roughly divided into traditional, religious and economic reasons as well as medical myths.

To follow tradition is a sign of respect for older generations and gratitude towards the own heritage. To break with an ancient custom can be understood as an affront against the whole (extended) family and the ancestors. The reactions towards this can be very emotional and therefore even life threatening.

Religion and its connection between hygiene and (spiritual) purity is a reason for many families to let their daughters be mutilated. No religious scripture invokes female genital mutilation. Nonetheless, members of different religions are convinced that genital mutilation can create harmony between humans and spiritual beings.

Medical myths purport that a mutilated vagina is more hygienic and that contact with a clitoris is lethal or causes impotence or that organs or foetuses can fall out of the vulva, among many other things. Health problems due to FGM are often not linked to it, but instead explained otherwise.

Economic reasons for female genital mutilation are higher dowries and better chances at marriage for the mutilated girls and women. In most of the practising communities the structures rarely make it possible for single girls and women to survive. In the areas where FGM is practised, the status of a woman generally depends on her husband. Without FGM, she not only stays alone, but is also outlawed from society.


Risks and consequences

About 25% of the affected women and girls either die directly after the procedure or from its consequences. Female genital mutilation is normally performed without anaesthesia, causing extreme pain for the girls, who are often highly traumatized as a result of the procedure. Depending on the type and procedure, various complications and consequences are common: for instance blood loss, infections (e.g. HIV/AIDS), adenoids, development of fistulas, chronic pain, difficulties with urination and menstruation, incontinence, infertility, high risk for mother and child during childbirth and other gynaecological problems. Among the possible psychological consequences are, among others, anxiety disorders, insomnia, PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), lack of concentration, depression and traumata. Especially the infibulation (sewing shut of the vagina after the cutting) leads to severe consequences, as the opening of the wound is only desired for a short time and the girl is “opened” on her wedding night as well as before every birth, and the wound has to re-heal again every time.