FGC has harmful effects on the health and wellbeing of a woman throughout her life and contravenes human, women’s and child rights. Female genital cutting is also commonly referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM).
How many girls and women are effected?
The UN estimates that worldwide 125 million women and girls are currently living with the consequences of FGC. A further 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the next decade across 29 known practising countries in Africa and the Middle East. However, this figure under-estimates the real number of girls affected, because other countries (e.g. Indonesia) are not included.
Estimates of the prevalence of female genital cutting in countries where data exists, and the numbers of women and girls that have been affected.
It is hard to give accurate figures, because data gathering outside of Africa tends not to include FGC. It can also be hard to collect information from women and girls about their experiences, because of the taboo within the community to speak about FGC. As something that happens primarily to children, there is also an issue about accuracy of reporting on their behalf.
These are the current best estimates for the countries with the most women and girls who have undergone FGC. This data only includes countries where surveys have taken place.
What actually hapenes during FGC?
When a girl undergoes female genital cutting, some or all of her external genitals are cut away. This can be part or all of her labia, part or all of her clitoris and part or all of her clitoral hood (the prepuce). In its most extreme form, all of her external genitals will be cut away. This often happens in very basic circumstances with rudimentary tools; it is unlikely that there is any anaesthetic or that conditions are sterile.
In the harshest form of FGC, the wound that is left may be sewn closed with thorns or string. A small hole is left for menstrual blood and urine. The wound then heals over and the scar tissue “seals” her vagina. A girl will then have to be cut open, just enough for sexual intercourse. When she goes into labour, she is cut open even more. After this she may be re-sewn and cut open again every time she gives birth.