FGM is a term used to describe the act of deliberately altering or removing a female’s genitals for non-medical reasons. This practice is prevalent in 30 countries, with the majority of cases in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Due to migration, cases have been reported in other countries including the UK. Indeed, a UK mother was jailed for 11 years following a conviction in 2019 for carrying out FGM on her three-year-old daughter. (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/08/mother-of-three-year-old-is-first-in-uk-to-be-convicted-of-fgm).
An estimated 137,000 women and girls who had undergone FGM were living in England and Wales in 2011 (https://www.equalitynow.org/manifesto_to_end_fgm_in_the_uk_by_2030 ). As such, FGM is considered a global problem, which can seriously impact on the health and is a violation of the rights of girls and women. According to the World Health Organisation there are 4 major types of FGM:
Type 1: This is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans (the external and visible part of the clitoris, which is a sensitive part of the female genitals), and/or the prepuce/ clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoral glans).
Type 2: This is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without removal of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva ).
Type 3: Also known as infibulation, this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoral prepuce/clitoral hood and glans (Type I FGM).
Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.