What is FGM - Comparing FGM to male circumcision

What is FGM - Comparing FGM to male circumcision

Posted on Mar 16, 2016

What is FGM - Comparing FGM to male circumcision



What is FGM?

FGM stands for female genital mutilation but its also known as ‘female circumcision’, ‘cutting’ or ‘sunna’. These are procedures involving injury or partial/total removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

There is no medical reason or benefit to justify carrying out FGM yet it is believed that 100-140 million women worldwide have undergone some sort of genital mutilation.


Can you compare FGM to male circumcision?

No, not really, unlike FGM male circumcision is a legal procedure usually performed on newborn babies in hospital.

The procedure usually heals in a few days and offers health benefits of fewer urinary tract infections, reduced chance of female to male HIV transfer and doesn’t affect sexual sensation, orgasm or pleasure.

In comparison, World Health Organization said that…

“If a boy or man underwent the same level of mutilation as young women undergoing the most common form of FGM, he would have the head of his penis, and around a third of the shaft removed.”


The four types of FGM

There are four types of FGM and they are:


Type 1- Clitoridectomy


This is the partial or total removal or the clitoris and in rare cases the prepuce (the skin around the clitoris).


Type 2- Excision (‘Surgical’ removal)


This is partial, or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without the excision of the labia majora.


Type 3- Infibulation and Re-infibulation



This involves the narrowing of the vaginal opening formed by cutting and stitching up the outer labia, either with or without the removal of the clitoris and inner labia. This is the most severe form of FGM. Where infibulation if practised, girls’ legs are bound together to immobilise her to allow for the formation of scar tissue. This creates a physical barrier to sexual intercourse and childbirth. Often, women are cut open on the first night of marriage (by their husband or circumciser) and again in order to give birth.



This means to literally stitch women back up following childbirth. In some cultures, this is seen as necessary or sometimes even desirable.


Type 4 – Other


This covers all other harmful procedures including pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, cauterizing the genital area and introducing corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina.

As you can see, there is little to no resemblance to male circumcision and female genital mutilation.

This is why it is so important for those who work with children and young girls to be aware of what FGM is and what the signs are, before an irreversible act of harm is performed.


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It’s important to remember that parents’ motives for carrying out FGM are born out of centuries of tradition and culture. Most believe that they are helping their daughters to be cleansed and kept pure. Most of the time they are unaware that what they are doing is harmful and illegal.


Action to take should you suspect someone is at risk of FGM

It is important that you incorporate FGM within your safeguarding policies. This way, if any member of staff suspected someone at risk– they will have the correct information to help them.


NSPCC FGM Helpline:

T: 0800 028 3550

E: fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk

Metropolitan Police Project Azure (FGM)

T: 0207 161 2888.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

T: 0207 008 1500

E: fgm@fco.gov.uk


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