FGM is the deliberate mutilation of female genitalia. This is often the removal or cutting of the labia and clitoris. The World Health Organization describes FGM as any procedure that injures the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM has no health benefits and is in fact very harmful to health in many ways.
FGM is illegal. Even if carried out by a healthcare professional or if it takes place outside the UK. It is a form of gender-based violence, it is a human rights violation and it is a form of child abuse.
FGM is damaging.The lives of women and girls can be ruined by FGM. It causes physical and mental health problems which can go on for all of their lives. It is also extremely distressing and damages women’s relationships and how they feel about themselves.
FGM does not need to happen. No one should be forced to have FGM and the law should protect women and girls who are at risk. See our page for information to Get Help Now.
Why does FGM happen?
There are huge pressures on families and communities to ensure daughters have FGM. Many people have FGM forced on them and have no choice whether it happens. People have strong and deeply held beliefs that FGM is a good and necessary thing for girls to go through.Tradition
FGM happens to women and to girls in adolescence, childhood and even sometimes when she is a baby. It is seen by some as a right of passage into womanhood and a condition of marriage. Some believe that vaginas need to be cut and that women will be unhealthy or unclean or unworthy if they don’t have FGM. These beliefs are very strong and parents genuinely think that they are doing the right thing for their daughters.
In communities where all women have FGM and all girls are expected to have it, FGM can seem normal. It can seem like there is no other choice and it is very difficult for girls to challenge these traditions.
Sexuality and fertility
There is a common belief that women need to have FGM to have babies. In fact FGM does not improve fertility but can cause infertility and an increased risk of childbirth complications and even deaths in newborns.
FGM does not have any sexual benefits but in fact damages or removes sexually sensitive skin and can make sexual intercourse painful, difficult and even impossible without re-cutting the entrance to the vagina. It can make relationships difficult and stop couples enjoying a good sex life together.Religion and belief
Some people practice FGM as part of their religion and there can be huge pressures to make girls have it done. However FGM is not recommended by any religion or in any religious texts. It is not religious but might have become symbolic in some communities as a demonstration of faith. In fact it is not a condition of belonging to any faith group.
Christianity, Judaism and Islam unanimously agree that your body is a temple of God. The practice of FGM is a harmful custom that is not advocated in any holy script.
Hear what religious leaders from different faith groups have to say about FGM on this page.