FGM: a practise to be ended

February 6 was the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Even if this terrible practice is still used and widespread around the World, not all know the real number of its diffusion and the pain that those women have to go through. Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM ranges from the partial or total removal of the clitoris to its most extreme form, the removal of all external genitalia and the stitching together of the two sides of the vulva. As it seems obvious, the procedure has no health benefits for girls and women. Its aim is believed to be the elimination of sexual desires and safeguards chastity. These procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of new-born deaths.

Marian’s family woke her up in the middle of the night, immobilized and bounded her in the bed. “I was screaming: what are you going to do?” Mariam remembers. “My father never used violence against us while we were kids, so I was very alarmed by what they were going to do to me. I didn’t understand”. This was the day that her nine-year-old self joined all the women subjected to female genital mutilation.

For her family, the day was cause for celebration. But for Mariam it was the day which would affect her for the rest of her life. “They got four people,” Mariam remembers, “each one holding a limb. Two for the hands and two for the legs.” After she was cut by a local midwife, she bled continuously for two days. “I didn’t know what was happening. I only saw my mother constantly changing the sheet with blood on it.”

Marian is only one of the millions women around the world who are subject to this inhumane practice.


“FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. The practice violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.” World Health Organization (WHO).

The World Health Organization reports more than 125 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM. The practice is especially prevalent in eastern and western Africa, some parts of Asia, and areas in the Persian Gulf. WHO says the highest rates are found in Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Egypt.

In all this darkness, a small light started to shine. The WHO is seeing progress in the battle against the FGM.

There is encouraging increase in the political support to end FGM. Always more and more countries are implementing laws that criminalize the performance of FGM, the family member who imposes this procedure and the health professional who performs this practice. All around the world an increasing number of courageous women and men are standing against this terrible practice. NGOs are working close to the communities where the FGM is still common in order to eradicate this procedure and guarantee a safer future to young ladies.

However, what has been done it is not sufficient to eliminate this procedure. In particular: even if more laws against FGM had been approved, their real implementation is still a far goal. This is especially true for those villages far away from the big cities, places where traditions and beliefs are particularly strong.

Moreover, although the number of women subjected to this treatment is decreasing worldwide, it is increasing in Europe. This could be explained by the massive immigration from Africa to the UE.

FGM is not only a developing countries’ problem, it is about all the World.


Francesco Stefani


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