This article aims to shed some light on the meaning of the term ‘female genital mutilation.’ Female genital mutilation is also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision. It is a ritual of cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. Generally, it is performed between the ages of 7 years to 15 years.

What is Female genital mutilation?

Female genital mutilation is also known as ‘Khatna’. In this process, female genitals are partly or fully removed or injured to protect the purity of the body of women till marriage. Generally, it is performed during the age of puberty but in recent times, it is being performed on babies as well, who are only a couple of days, weeks, or months old.

FGM practiced for what purpose?

  1. Utmost reason for female genital mutilation is to protect the virginity of girls till marriage.

  2. Many communities practice it for religious purposes.

  3. Communities consider it a social status and do it under societal pressure.

Types of FGM

There are four types of female genital mutilations namely:

  1. Clitoridectomy- removing part of the clitoris or the entire clitoris.

  2. Excision- removing part of the clitoris or all of the clitoris and the inner labia(the lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (the outer lips).

  3. Infibulation- narrowing the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.

  4. Other harmful procedures to the female genitals, including pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping, or burning the area.

Methods of FGM

FGM often happens against a girl's will without her consent, and girls may have to be forcibly restrained. It is generally performed using a cutter, knives, razors, sharpened rocks, etc. Many times, it is performed in the girls' home itself, with or without anesthesia. FGM is generally performed by an older woman, but in communities where the male barber has assumed the role of health worker, may also perform it. In news, it is reported that local anesthesia had been used in Egypt for FGM in 60% of cases, general anesthetics in 13%, and neither in 27%. According to a nurse in Uganda, “Many times, FGM is performed on up to 30 girls with the same surgical instrument. It causes several diseases to them.” Till 2016, 77% of the women in Egypt and 50% in Indonesia have been involved in FGM Household.

Effects of FGM

There are no such health benefits of FGM to women. Instead, it causes harm to women's bodies. This can be broadly classified into two categories:

  1. Short term health risk.

  2. Long term health risk.

Short term health risk

  1. Excessive bleeding: happens is the clitoral artery or other blood vessels.

  2. Shock: caused by pain, infection, and hemorrhage.

  3. Genital tissue swelling: caused due to inflammatory response or local infection.

  4. Infections: may cause due to use of contaminated instruments and during the healing period.

  5. Urination problem: these may include urinary retention and pain in passing urine.

Long term health risk

  1. Vaginal problems: discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis, and other infections.

  2. Menstrual problems: infibulation may cause painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) and irregular menses.

  3. Sexual health problems: it damages female sexual organs causing various sexual health diseases.

  4. Childbirth complications: increased risk in normal baby delivery, difficult labor, etc.

  5. Mental health problems: it causes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, disorders.

  6. Deaths: due to excessive pain and shock, many females die during surgery.

Laws Related to FGM in Different Countries


In Kenya, FGM practice is considered illegal with punishment ranging from imprisonment up to three years and/or a fine of up to 1880 USD. 92.5% of women and 88.8% men believe that this practice should be stopped. Laws against FGM were enacted in 2011, helping in declining this practice from 28% in 2008 to 21% in 2014. Despite the presence of strict laws and harsh penalties, “cross border” FGM is practiced in various countries such as Uganda.


In July 1994, Canada recognized FGM as a form of persecution. Section 268 of the Criminal Code was amended to ban FGM, except in the cases where the woman is at least 18 years of age and there is no harm caused to the body. There are a few thousand Canadian girls at risk of “vacation cutting”, whereby some girls were taken overseas to undergo this procedure.


FGM recently grabbed the attention of the Ministry of Women and Child Development. There are no specific laws which stop the practice of FGM, but if a person is caught doing this offense, they are punishable under Sections 320, 322, 334, 335, 336, 337, 338, and 340 of IPC,1860 as well as under Article 14, 21 and 26 of the Constitution of India, 1949. FGM is not practiced in India except in the Bohra Community of Muslims; husbands practice FGM on their wives because they are merchants and need to travel a lot.

In this regard, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court of India by Sunita Tiwari in 2017 and the case was accepted to pass the order in favor of Muslim females and gave direction to the government to make the law for the complete ban of the practice of FGM and declare it as a serious crime.

How to stop FGM?[1]

1. A very basic and the most important thing to stop the practice of FGM is to educate girls about their rights, and discuss what the damages caused to their bodies are so that they can take a stand against it.

2. We need to create awareness among different communities that religion doesn’t demand FGM.

3. The unjust reason to practice FGM needs to be challenged.

4. The government should make strict laws against the practice of FGM and declare it as a crime.

5. Old generations needs to discourage the practice of FGM.

Each and every individual needs to understand that this practice is a form of unjust torture to females. This practice must be stopped to protect the dignity of women.

[1]“Female Genital Mutilation”, World Health Organization, Source Link.

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