Female Genital Mutilation: A questionable Tradition


Author: Miss. Ipsa, IMS Unison University, Dehradun

*This article has been written by the author while pursuing a Certificate Course on Research Methodology with us.


To some cultural practice may appear to be wastage of time and superstition but for those who practice them, they believe it to be sacred. However, some cultural practices are such that they need to be replaced or changed with the changing societal needs and circumstances. One of such cultural practices or ritual is Female Genital Mutilation.

FGM or female genital mutilation aka female circumcision is simply the removal of part or all of the external genitalia of girls and women. Female genital cutting in walls partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for the non-medical reasons are part of female genital mutilation. It describes the severity of the practices and illustrates the action as a violation of the rights of girls and women.

FGM is generally performed by a traditional practitioner who comes from a family in which generations of women have performed the procedure.

There are four main justifications cited for FGM: [i]

  • Custom and tradition  
  • Women’s sexuality
  • Religion
  • Social pressure or social acceptance


 Female genital mutilation is classified into 4 major types:

  • Type 1: the removal of the clitoris (a female genital part), and the process is known as Clitoridectomy.
  • Type 2: in this clitoris and labia minora are removed and the process is called excision. This process may be performed with or without excision of the labia majora.
  • Type 3: the third type is Infibulation. In this process, the vaginal opening is narrowed either by a covering seal or by stitching the labia minora or labia majora. 
  • Type 4: This type includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.


FGM has psychological impacts. It is always traumatic, causes excruciating pain, shock, urine retention, vaginal problems, menstrual problem and injury to adjacent tissue. Other complications include septicaemia (blood poisoning), infertility and obstructed labour. Haemorrhaging and infection have caused death in many cases.


Female Genital Mutilation is practiced across Africa especially in the North-Eastern region- Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan; Colombia, Malaysia, Oman,  Saudi Arabia, UAE[ii] and within India in Mumbai specifically among some communities. More than 200 million girls have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation- a UNICEF report suggests, although the exact number still remains uncertain.

Furthermore, there are an estimated 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. The majority of girls are cut before they even turn 15.it has been estimated that almost 68 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM by 2030.[iii]


The highest percentage of girls undergoing Female Genital Mutilation has been reported in Somalia with 98% of women undergoing FGM. The countries where more than 90% of women undergo FGM include Guinea, Djibouti, and Egypt. In the figure, the number of women with country, who are the victim of this cruel practice is- Egypt (27.2 million), Ethiopia (23.8 million), Nigeria (19.9 million), and Sudan (12.1 million).[iv]

These girls are victim of this practice because either their mothers were once subjected to it, or they are forced by the family elders, so as to be accepted in the society. The sexual desire or fantasy of females has always been a topic of discussion and taboo. So as to reduce it such ritual was performed. It is also a clear fact that society is the main reason behind our every move and behavior. Acceptance in society is like a nectar, it means that acceptance is the utmost desire and achievement of a person.


On one hand many people and organisation are working for upliftment of the women section of the society and to reduce the rate of FGM, to save women from being the victim of such a brutal practice. On the other hand, it is a shocking result that in many countries where the practice of FGM is common, even the women and girls are encouraging the practice.

Percentage of Women Supporting FGM in Different Countries[v]

Names of the countryPercentage of women and girls in support of FGM
Benin and Ghana93%
Kenya, Iraq, Niger, Togo, Burkina Faso and Tanzania85%
Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali and Gambia<30%


UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) are two of the major organization working to accelerate changes and prevent the performance of Female Genital Mutilation, at the International Level.

These two organizations have jointly started a Programme (UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme). The phase III (2018-2021) of this programme was launched in 2017 on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change. This Joint Programme is a comprehensive framework, seeking to eliminate the practice of FGM totally and completely, through policy and legislation. To bring radical changes in society, the help of the local social communities is essential, so as to uproot the problem.

Through this program, these organizations have intervened in the following 17 countries, in order to tackle the problem: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, and Yemen.[vi] At the national level, UNICEF and UNFPA have also sought the help of the Government of many countries like Finland and Germany, along with the NGOs to make anti-FGM laws, to ban the practice and to control it to an extent, so as to reduce the number of cases or happenings.


  • It has been recorded that almost 560,271 girls worldwide have received health services related to FGM.
  • The UNICEF claims that 231,375 women and girls received social services and 83,812 received legal services.[vii]
  • 16 countries have been benefitted from the Programme and 13 countries have made the legislations to ban the practice of FGM.
  • As a result of creating awareness, many communities across the globe have abandoned the practice of FGM.
  • More than 900 cases of legal enforcement have been documented.[viii]

Many organizations other than UNICEF and UNFPA have recognized the practice of FGM as harmful for women and girls and a violation of human rights. This organization includes the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, etc.


Female genital mutilation is a harmful practice against women leaving psychological disorders and bodily injuries and problems for life. This practice has held its roots in the communities because women cannot come on the front foot to express the injustice done to them and raise a voice against it.  It is a violation of the human rights of females thus, it is necessary to stop it at the appropriate time before further damage is caused to more young women and kids.

Although, the efforts are being made by the NGOs and international organizations like UN yet, it lacks efforts at grassroots level due to lack of awareness in the society. Even with the advancement in the technology and in the era of social media, a topic like FGM is like a needle in a haystack. It is based on cultural and traditional norms and history is evident that only law-making does not do any good. In order to remove such social evils, social changes are necessary.

Therefore, with the enforcement of the law, the participation of the community to stop such practice is essential.


[i] 18-04-20, 23:43, http://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/FGM_final.pdf

[ii] https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth

[iii] UNICEF fgm-annual-report 2018

[iv] 19-04-2020, 20:48, https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/a-questionable-tradition-female-genital-mutilation-cutting-by-country.html

[v] ibid

[vi] 19-04-20, 20:53, https://www.unicef.org/protection/unfpa-unicef-joint-programme-eliminating-fgm

[vii]  UNICEF fgm-annual report 2018

[viii]  19-04-20, 20:53, https://www.unicef.org/protection/unfpa-unicef-joint-programme-eliminating-fgm