Female genital mutilation: an injury, physical and mental harm.

J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2008 Dec;29(4):225-9.

Female genital mutilation: an injury, physical and mental harm.  

Utz-Billing I, Kentenich H.

Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, DRK-Hospital Westend, Berlin, Germany.  isabell.utz@drk-kliniken-berlin.de

This article gives an overview over the huge topic of ‘female genital mutilation’ (FGM). FGM means non-therapeutic, partial or complete removal or injury of each of the external female genitals. It concerns about 130 million women around the world. FGM is performed in about 30 countries, most of which are located in Africa. Four types of FGM are distinguished: type I stands for the removal of the clitoral foreskin, type II means the removal of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora. Type III is the extreme type of FGM. Not only the clitoris but also the labia minora and majora were removed. The orificium vaginae is sewn up, leaving only a small opening for urine or menstruation blood. Other types like pricking, piercing of clitoris or vulva, scraping of the vagina, etc. were defined as type IV of FGM. The mentioned reasons for FGM are: encouragement of the patriarchal family system, method for birth control, guarantee of moral behaviour and faithfulness to the husband, protection of women from suspicions and disgrace, initiation ritual, symbol of feminity and beauty, hygienic, health and economic advantages. Acute physical consequences of FGM include bleeding, wound infections, sepsis, shock, micturition problems and fractures. Chronic physical problems like anemia, infections of the urinary tract, incontinence, infertility, pain, menstruation problems and dyspareunia are frequent. Women also have a higher risk for HIV infections. During pregnancy and  delivery, examinations and vaginal application of medicine are more difficult. Women have a higher risk for a prolonged delivery, wound infections, a postpartum blood loss of more than 500 mL, perineal tears, a resuscitation of the infant and an inpatient perinatal death. Mental consequences after FGM include the feelings  of incompleteness, fear, inferiority and suppression. Women report chronic irritability and nightmares. They have a higher risk for psychiatric and psychosomatic diseases. FGM carried out by doctors, nurses or midwives is also called medicalisation of FGM and is definitely unacceptable. Regarding human rights, FGM refuses women the right of freedom from bodily harm. Specific laws that ban FGM exist in many countries in Europe, Africa, USA, Canada, New Zealand  and Australia.

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