Comfort M; Female genital mutilation

Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2004 Dec; 16(6):477-480

Female genital mutilation

Comfort M


Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to provide an up to date account of recent papers and attitude on female genital mutilation in the past year. It is aimed at all professionals caring and supporting women/girls with female genital mutilation, and to identify gaps.

Recent findings: Given the multidisciplinary complexity of the practice of female genital mutilation, it is surprising how little empirical research (both quantitative and qualitative) exists. There is a paucity of rigorous research into its prevalence, its health consequences for those girls/women experiencing the practice, the understanding of professionals who have to address the issue, the implementation of existing legislation and the impact of programme interventions intended to change people’s attitudes to, and the practice of, female genital mutilation. The overwhelming majority of literature focuses on the same topics, often drawing upon the same less-than-rigorous research data.

Summary: Worldwide, there are approximately 13 million refugees and asylum seekers and human rights violations are seen as contributing factors to people fleeing their homeland. In the United States, those seeking asylum or refugee status are asked about their life experiences. African women are asked about ritual genital surgery, as it may be an indicator of their gynaecological, obstetric and sexual health. Health and social care professionals in host countries, in Europe, Australia, Canada, the USA and the UK, for example, are increasingly encountering this vulnerable client group in their practice and are finding that they are ill-prepared to deal with presenting complex health needs and challenges.

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