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Impact of Female Genital Mutilation on Women's Health and Human Rights: A Global Perspective

Impact of Female Genital Mutilation on Women's Health and Human Rights: A Global Perspective



Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a deeply rooted cultural practice that includes harming the female genital organs in non-medical ways or removing the external female genitalia entirely. It is also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision. For ages, this practice has been prevalent in many African, Asian, and Middle Eastern civilisations, and it still exists despite widespread opposition worldwide. FGM is a complex, multifaceted issue that raises significant concerns for public health, human rights, and gender equality. There is an urgent need to highlight the need for a comprehensive, culturally sensitive approach to eliminate FGM and promote a world where every woman and girl can live free from its physical and psychological impact.

Female genital mutilation has its origins in social, cultural, and religious traditions. The practice is sometimes linked, within specific communities, to concepts of purity, modesty, and control over female sexuality. Some proponents argue that it is a rite of passage that ensures marriageability and is socially acceptable. However, FGM has no religious basis, as evidenced by the fact that it predates the major world faiths. Instead, its foundations are cultural and sociological.

Types of FGM

Four primary categories can be used to categorise FGM; moderate forms, which comprise the removal of the clitoris and labia, and more severe ones, which sometimes even involve the narrowing of the vaginal aperture and partial removal of the clitoral hood. The severity of the operation varies throughout cultures; Type III, or infibulation, is the most severe. These therapies are commonly performed by traditional healers using non-sterilized instruments, endangering the patient's health.

Health Consequences

FGM has detrimental impacts on a person's health that are substantial and grave. Immediate consequences include severe pain, excessive bleeding, infections, and even mortality. Long-term repercussions include things like persistent pain, sexual dysfunction, difficult delivery, and psychological trauma. The lack of medical expertise and proper hygiene throughout the procedures exacerbates these risks and prolongs the health issues that impact women.

Human Rights Violation

It is widely agreed that FGM violates human rights. This behaviour infringes on an individual's rights to life, liberty, and security as well as their freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Furthermore, it violates the rights to health, privacy, and the non-existence of discrimination based on gender. The World Health Organisation and the United Nations are among the international organisations that have called for the abolition of FGM.

Gl4obal Efforts to Combat FGM

Numerous international organisations and governments have been working to eliminate FGM through awareness campaigns, legislative measures, and community engagement. The United Nations has designated February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, aiming to raise awareness and promote global efforts to eradicate the practice. Even though several countries have passed laws against FGM, it is still challenging to enforce these laws due to deeply rooted cultural norms and a lack of resources. This year's theme is  #HerVoiceMatters, leading the #EndFGM movement.

Challenges and Future Prospects

Efforts to eliminate FGM must take a comprehensive and culturally sensitive approach. Education, community engagement, and women's empowerment must challenge traditional norms. Collaborative initiatives involving governments, non-governmental organisations, and communities are essential for lasting change. Furthermore, providing alternative rites of passage and economic opportunities for women must be prioritised to shift cultural attitudes and reduce the prevalence of FGM.


Female genital mutilation is a deeply rooted practice that adversely affects the physical and mental health of those who are impacted. It violates crucial human rights and poses a significant obstacle to achieving gender equality. Eradicating FGM requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses cultural norms, raises awareness, and empowers communities to abandon this harmful practice. By working together on a global scale, we can strive to create a world where every woman and girl can live free from the physical and psychological burdens of Female Genital Mutilation.


1. Afi Agboli et al., Changing attitudes towards female genital mutilation. From conflicts of loyalty to reconciliation with self and the community: The role of emotion regulation, Plos One.

2. Female genital mutilation, World Health Organisation.

3. Niama Hasan, SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages,  Babies Die.

4. Michelle A. Liguori, New Emergency Law Model for Egypt.

5. Priyal Sepaha, BREAKING THE BLADE: TAKEAWAYS FROM SUDAN’S BAN ON FGM, A CONTRARIO ICL, Reflections and Commentary on Global Justice Issues.

6. International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, 6 February, United Nations.