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What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (often referred to as FGM) is a destructive operation, during which the female genitals are partly or entirely removed or injured with the goals of inhibiting a woman’s sexual feelings. Most often the mutilation is performed before puberty, often on girls between the age of four and eight, but recently it is increasingly performed on nurslings who are only a couple of days, weeks or months old.

Where does FGM happen?

Female Genital Mutilation happens primarily in Africa, in particular in North-Eastern, Eastern and Western Africa. However, it also takes place in the Middle East, in South-East Asia – and also among immigrants in Europe. According to estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 150 million women are affected by FGM world-wide. In Europe, the number of mutilated women or girls and women threatened by FGM amounts up to 500,000.

How many different types of FGM are there?

The WHO differentiates between four different types of Female Genital Mutilation:

Type 1. Excision of the clitoris prepuce (“Sunna-circumcision”) and of the clitoris or parts thereof.

Type 2. Excision of the clitoris prepuce, the clitoris and the inner lips or parts thereof. Type 1 and 2 are the most common types of FGM: 80% of the affected women have gone through these procedures.

Type 3. Excision of part of or all of the external genitals (“infibulation”, also referred to as “Pharaonic Circumcision”). Afterwards the remaining parts of the outer lips are sewn together leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow. The scar need to be opened before intercourse or giving birth, which causes additional pain.

Infibulation is mainly spread in the Horn of Africa and its neighbouring areas – in Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea, as well as in the northern part of Sudan and in the southern part of Egypt. It is the most severe form of FGM and affects 15% of the women who suffered FGM.

Type 4. Uncategorized. Pricking, piercing, cutting or stretching of the clitoris or the labia, also burning or scarring the genitals as well as ripping of the vaginal opening or the introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina in order to tighten it. Plus: any other procedure, which injures or circumcises the female genitalia.

Who performs FGM?

FGM is usually performed by professional circumcisers, women who are enjoying a high reputation in their societies. It is also performed by traditional midwives and occasionally by healers, barbers or nurses or doctors trained in Western medicine. The procedure is usually performed without anaesthetic and under catastrophic hygienic circumstances. Knives, scissors, razor blades or pieces of broken glass are used as instruments among others.


Prevalence and legal status

The Desert Flower Foundation has put together a collection of data on the estimated prevalence of female genital mutilation and the current legal situation concerning FGM in a selection of countries where FGM is practiced. The table combines data from the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the US Department of State, FGM Network, WADI, The Interparliamentary Union (IPU) and several national studies and surveys. You can download it by clicking on the button below.

Waris Diries friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s foundation has published an overview of the facts and the legal situation regarding FGM in the UK and the United States, which can be accessed here.

FGM in Europe: Facts


* Up to 500,000 girls and women living in the European Union are affected or threatened by FGM.
* 75,000 of them live in Great Britain, 65,000 in France, 30,000 in Germany.
* The victims are migrants, whose families took along this practice when they immigrated.
* In spite of the fact that FGM is in most European countries either directly or indirectly prohibited, the laws are either incomplete or they are not enforced. The only country in which legal proceedings in connection with Female Genital Mutilation have ever been instituted, is France.
* Most European countries hardly invest in awareness training and in investigations.
* There are no effective cross-border measures against Female Genital Mutilation. Any efforts – which vary tremendously in their degree – take place within the country borders. FGM is still not considered to be a European problem.
* The victims are usually approached in the health sector and by authorities in an inadequate way, ignorance prevails.
* FGM is in hardly any European country a regular part of the vocational training of doctors, midwives and social workers.
* No European country explicitly accepts the threat of genital mutilation as a reason for asylum.

FGM - What can we do?


1. Help raising awareness!

Talk about this crime! Tell your families, friends, colleagues and acquaintances what Female Genital Mutilation is – and that it happens here in Europe, among us. In order to finally ban FGM in Europe it is important, that as many people as possible are informed and that they oppose this practice.

Controvert, if somebody claims genital mutilation to be part of a culture, a tradition or a religion and justifies it this way! Many of these arguments are based on the fear to be labelled as xenophobic or racist when denouncing this crime. But: tolerating genital mutilation is racist! If white girls or even men were affected by it, such a crime would not be tolerated for a single second. But doing such a thing to coloured people or black girls is tolerable? Fear of contact cannot be tolerated if it concerns human rights or the rights of children! These rights are applicable to all human beings! World-wide!


2. Help to implement it!

Support politicians, lobbies, help organisations who actively fight against genital mutilation. Genital mutilation must be condemned and banned in all of Europe. Offenders and even responsible parents must be punished for this crime. Women who escape from this fate to this continent as well as women who are part of an immigrant community and therefore have to leave their place of residence must be protected. We need to apply as much pressure as possible so that this becomes reality in all of Europe. The more people support these aims and the more consistent these claims are, the faster we can achieve these objectives – and save thousands of little girls.

You may find a list of possible contact persons and institution under “addresses and links”.


3. Raise an alarm!

In the event that you get to know about e.g. an upcoming journey to Africa of a small girl and you suspect due to certain evidences (!) that it is intended that this girl will be mutilated on this journey – inform the police or the public prosecutor! I know, that this will only apply to few of the readers. But again and again I get to know tragic cases in which girls are knowingly abandoned to their fate – because people are ignorant, insecure or scared.

Genital mutilation is prohibited directly or indirectly in most EU-countries – but the laws are not enforced. One of the reasons is that the authorities are hardly ever informed on these crimes. In France for instance some girls could be saved from their cruel fate, because people informed the authorities. Let us make this possible for the rest of Europe as well!


4. Support my fight!

I have founded the Desert Flower Foundation not only because I consider FGM as a personal fight, but also because I want to help the millions of girls and women who suffer under FGM consequences. Help me to help them; support my foundation! Under the link “shop” you can find several products that you can buy, a part of your purchase will help us to finance our projects against genital mutilation. You can also go to our “donate” section if you wish to support us directly.

On the button below, you will find helpful contact numbers and links about FGM.