Basic facts about FGM/C

(Source: World Health Organization 2016: WHO guidelines on the management of health complications from FGM)


Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is also sometimes known as Female Circumcision or Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C).


It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women worldwide are living with the effects of FGM, and despite efforts to eradicate the practice, every year some 3 million girls and women are at risk of FGM and are therefore exposed to the potential negative health consequences of this harmful practice.


WHO classifies FGM into four types

  1. Type I: Partial or total removal of the clitoris (Clitoridectomy) and/or the prepuce
  • Ia: removal of the prepuce/clitoral hood (circumcision)
  • Ib: removal of the clitoris with the prepuce (Clitoridectomy)


  1. Type II: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision)
  • IIa: removal of the labia minora only
  • IIb: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora
  • IIc: partial or total removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora


  1. Type III: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with the creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation)
  • IIIa: removal and appositioning the labia minora with or without excision of the clitoris
  • IIIb: removal and appositioning the labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris


  1. Type IV: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, pulling, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization
Types of FGM/C practiced in Nigeria (Source: NDHS 2013)
Types of FGM/C practiced in Nigeria (Source: NDHS 2013)


FGM is practised for a variety of sociocultural reasons, varying from one region and ethnic group to another. These include…

  • Part of the history and cultural tradition of the community.
  • Rite of passage to adulthood and confer a sense of ethnic and gender identity within the community.
  • Social acceptance.
  • Safeguard virginity before marriage,
  • Promote marriageability (i.e. increasing a girl’s chances of finding a husband),
  • Ensure fidelity after marriage,
  • Prevent rape,
  • Provide a source of income for circumcisers
  • Aesthetic reasons (cleanliness and beauty)
  • Belief that FGM is a religious requirement, although it is not mentioned in major religious texts such as the Koran or the Bible.



FGM has no known health benefits, and those girls and women who have undergone the procedure are at great risk of suffering from its complications throughout their lives.


Immediate risks

·         Haemorrhage( excessive bleeding)

·         Pain

·         Shock

·         Genital tissue swelling

·         Infections

·         Wound healing problems

·         Death

Sexual Functioning Risks

·         Dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse)

·         Decreased sexual satisfaction

·         Reduced sexual desire and arousal

·         Decreased lubrication during sexual intercourse

·         Reduced frequency of orgasm or anorgasmia

Long Term

·         Genital tissue damage

·         Vaginal discharge

·         Vaginal itching

·         Menstrual problems

·         Reproductive tract infections

·         Chronic genital infections

·         Urinary tract infections

·         Painful urination

Obstetric Risks

·         Caesarean section

·         Postpartum haemorrhage (blood loss <500 ml)

·         Episiotomy

·         Prolonged labour

·         Obstetric tears/lacerations

·         Instrumental delivery

·         Difficult labour/dystocia

·         Extended maternal hospital stay

·         Stillbirth and early neonatal death

·         Infant resuscitation at delivery

Psychological Risks

·         Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

·         Anxiety disorder

·         Depression


The practice – prevalent in 30 countries in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East – is now present across the globe due to international migration.


FGM violates a series of well-established human rights principles, norms and standards,

  • Principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex
  • Right to life when the procedure results in death
  • Right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
  • Rights of the child
  • Right to the highest attainable standard of health.


The medicalization of FGM refers to situations in which the procedure (including re-infibulation) is practised by any category of health-care provider, whether in a public or a private clinic, at home or elsewhere, at any point in time in a woman’s life. This definition was first adopted by World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1997, and reaffirmed in 2008 by 10 UN agencies in the interagency statement, eliminating female genital mutilation. The interagency statement strongly emphasizes that regardless of whether FGM is carried out by traditional or medical personnel, it represents a harmful and unethical practice, with no benefits whatsoever, which should not be performed under any circumstances.

For more information about FGM/C please visit our FGM/C Resources Page.