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An Overview of Female Genital Mutilation

Authored By : Ankita Roy


The practice of female genital mutilation is against the dignity of a woman and human rights. This procedure is still in existence due to the continuation of customs from generations. This United Nations and WHO considers this practice against human rights, it has not been criminalized in several countries including India. This practice is a camouflaged matter and is not discussed. This article is a brief analysis of the conflict between basic human rights of the girls and women who are victimised and the religious customs.


Female Genital Mutilation; World Health Organisation; Customs;


In current times, we have come across several agonizing social stigmas that have been faced by women for ages, violating their integrity and human rights. The society has faced such crimes from generations to generations in the name of custom. Imagine being dragged into a dark room, pinned down to the floor and imagine your clitoris being sliced off from your genitals in the name of culture.

This cruel practice of partial or total removal of female genitalia for non-medical reasons is the female genital mutilation, as defined by World Health Organization. In most of the scenarios, FGM is practiced on girls before puberty hits them. In common parlance it is a camouflaged matter as people believe it to be part of a religious custom and prefers it to be private. This practice is more prevalent in Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Report by WHO states, an assessment shows that more than 200 million women and girls alive have been the victim of FGM. Another estimation says that around 3 million girls are in menace of being prey of this cruel act annually. Many reports by WHO elucidates the consequences and harm caused by FGM.

What causes FGM?

The United Nations Population Fund has illuminated the origin of this evil practice in its report which states, such practices indicate the patriarchal society and superiority of males over females. FGM paves the path for the man-oriented society to create an authority over a woman’s sexuality and to preserve her virginity before marriage.

FGM has its emergence from myths and traditions. Myths have existed from generations that FGM escalates the fertility rate and dwindles miscarriages. Also, this practice has been driven in the name of religion, bodily hygiene and plays a vital role as the criterion for marriageability. The lower literacy rates amongst women shoots up the chances of FGM.

What harms are caused?

The FGM has determined consequences on women for both short and long term. WHO has mentioned the consequences of this act, “No health benefit, only harm”. Such evil practices causes physical harm and mental distress. It is an interference in the natural functioning of women’s bodies.

The young victims with raw bodies and vulnerable mental health face the harm of such practices. Piercing and slicing off of the female genitals have dangerous ramifications such as severe ache, swelling in genitals, excessive blood loss from the sensitive parts and fever. The removal are mostly done by the inexperienced midwives by using the unsterilized equipment. The lack of proper care during the process escalates the chances of several infections in the genital organs and in some cases to death.

Apart from the physical harms caused to women, this practice causes hazardous psychological effects and emotional distress. According to certain researchers, FGM victims have high chances of getting pushed into post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

Moreover, Removal of the genitals from a female's body affects her body in different long-term complications such as urinary tract infection, painful urination, vaginal problems, menstrual problems, difficulty in passing of menstrual blood, scar tissues, increased risk of child birth complications and painful intercourse.

Apart from the physical and mental distressful consequences of this practice, WHO analysed the economic aspect of the FGM. The report stated that the cost on the FGM victims is around USD 1.4 billion every year, as it causes harm to the body and no benefits. WHO has organized the consequences of the practice as gynaecological, mental, sexual, obstetric and urological. Thus, the dubious tradition of FGM has hampered every related sector.

Customs vs Human Rights:

The sociological school of jurisprudence advocates the relationship between society and law. It argues that law is a social phenomenon and with the evolution of society law should adapt itself. In jurisprudential aspect, from the discussion an inference can be drawn that customs and human rights of an individual are in conflict. The violation of basic human rights while practicing a custom is definitely a significant topic of discussion.

Every human has a right to live his life with dignity. The rights inherited by individuals that have been rooted on the notion of dignity, equality, fairness and freedom are human rights vested in every individual since birth. The procedure of FGM is in contradiction with the concept of human rights. Removal of one’s genital in the name of custom and to preserve the virginity of a woman is disrespectful to any woman making her life miserable. Thus, this procedure is in clear violation of the right to live a dignified life. It also promotes gender discrimination and supports the male-dominated society. It also infringes the right of children as they cannot give consent to such evil practices at such young age. The troubles caused to girls and women due to the procedure is clear infringement of principle of fairness and freedom thus, making FGM violative of human rights and unacceptable globally. It can be argued that such practices were appropriate for that era of society but should not be followed in today’s era and should be curtailed.

Conclusion :

The elimination of FGM has been recognised by United Nations as sustainable development goal to be achieved by 2030. It has been recognised as violative of human rights and thus, has been criminalised in most of the countries. The prevention of such practices can be done by spreading awareness about it and its consequences. The countries that prevail in such practices should enact laws preventing such practice. Community programs, social welfare programs, work by welfare organizations and educating people are the important measures that can be taken for the prevention of such practices. The nature of the education should be as such that it changes the thought process of the society. Thus, the target year is near and can only be accomplished by enlightening people.

Reference :

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[3] Id;

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[5] Female genital mutilation or cutting, Office on Women’s Health,(Aug 3rd,2020, 22:45pm),;

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[8] Likhit Agarwal, Female Genital Mutilation- an unrevealed perplexity, The Law Gazette,(Aug 2nd,2020, 20:50pm),;

[9] Female Genital Mutilation, Reproductive Rights, (Aug 2nd,2020, 21:30pm),;

[10] Global Sustainable Development Report 2019, UN, (Aug 4th,2020, 15:45pm),;