FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation. And before we explain what it is, we’re going to be very clear from the start: FGM is illegal in the UK.
Sometimes known as ‘cutting’ or ‘female circumcision’, FGM is defined as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” (World Health Organisation)
FGM is mainly carried out on girls between infancy and 15 years old, with the majority of cases occurring between the ages of 5 and 8 years old.
The procedure is traditionally carried out by a female with no medical training, without anesthetic or antiseptic treatments, using knives, scissors, and scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades. The girl is sometimes forcibly restrained (NHS Choices, 2013).
There are four main types of FGM:
- Type 1 (clitoridectomy): removing part or all of the clitoris;
- Type 2 (excision): removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (larger outer lips);
- Type 3 (infibulation): narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
Other harmful procedures to the female genitals, which include pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping and burning the area (NHS Choices, 2013).