The practice of female genital mutilation results in immediate and lifelong psychological effects. (For more information on the extent to which female genital mutilation is practiced worldwide, please see the Prevalence section.) After facing the emotional shock that is associated with this procedure, a girl may experience serious psychological problems, including:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female genital mutilation “has no health benefits and it harms girls and women in many ways.” While the physical effects of female genital mutilation vary greatly—depending on the type of FGM performed, the conditions under which it is performed, the expertise of the practitioner, the amount of resistance offered and the general health of the girl or woman who is undergoing the procedure—serious complications occur most frequently as a result of infibulations, which involve stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening. Because female genital mutilation is often performed by persons who are not medical professionals, they may not be aware of the protocols for surgery. They also may not be prepared to respond, in a safe and effective manner, to complications that may arise during the process. Unsanitary or non-sterile conditions associated with female genital mutilation, including use of dirty or rusty razors, also expose a girl to infection or disease. As a result of these conditions, the following physical consequences may result:
Some have argued that the practice of female genital mutilation is safer now that it has been "medicalized," which means that some of the practitioners who perform female genital mutilation are medical professionals; however, this should not contribute to the acceptability of a severe human rights violation, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have all publicly spoken against the practice of female genital mutilation under all circumstances, including FGM performed by health professionals.
In addition to the physical and emotional conseuqences, female genital mutilation reflects severe gender discrimination. Its practice prevents communities from achieving international commitments to human rights. It robs communities of the full contributions of women and girls, and limits the capacity and ability of women and girls to reach their full potential. It therefore limits country development and efforts to reduce poverty.
Compiled from: Female Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet, World Health Organization (Fact sheet N°241) (February 2010); World Health Organization, Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, An Interagency Statement (2008) (PDF, 48 pages); Calling for an End to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, United Nations Population Fund (2009).
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