What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation (often referred to as FGM) is a destructive operation, during which the female genitals are partly or entirely removed or injured with the aim of inhibiting a woman’s sexual feelings. Most often the mutilation is performed before puberty, often on girls between the age of four and eight, but recently it is increasingly performed on babies who are only a couple of days, weeks or months old.

Circumcision Type III

Beschneidung Typ III

The clitoris and the labia are cut without anaesthetic. A variety of sharp objects are used, such as knives, scissors and razors - usually not disinfected.

Afterwards, the labia stumps are sewn together.

A hole remains the size of a match head for urination resulting in lifelong mental and physical pain.

Who performs FGM?

FGM is usually performed by professional circumcisers; women who have a high reputation within their societies. It is also performed by traditional midwives and occasionally by healers, nurses or doctors trained in Western medicine. The procedure is usually performed without anaesthetic and under dreadful and unhygienic circumstances.

The cutting instruments

  • Razor blades

    Razor blades

  • Scissors


  • Knive


  • Pieces of broken glass

    Pieces of broken glass

Where does FGM happen?

Female Genital Mutilation happens primarily in Africa, in particular in North-Eastern, Eastern and Western Africa. However, it also takes place in the Middle East, in South-East Asia – and also among immigrants in Europe. According to estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 200 million women are affected by FGM worldwide. In Europe, the number of mutilated women or girls and women threatened by FGM amounts up to 1 000 000.

Affected women worldwide (WHO)


cut women

in Europe

How many forms of
FGM exist?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) differentiates between four different types of Female Genital Mutilation:

  • 0
    Type 1 + 2

    Type 1 Excision of the clitoris prepuce (“Sunna-circumcision”) and of the clitoris or parts thereof.

    Type 2 Excision of the clitoris prepuce, the clitoris and the inner lips or parts thereof.

  • 0
    Type 3

    Type 3 Excision of part of or all of the external genitals (“infibulation”, also referred to as “Pharaonic Circumcision”).

    Afterwards the remaining parts of the outer lips are sewn together leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow.

    The scar needs to be opened before intercourse or giving birth, which causes additional pain. Infibulation is mainly spread in the Horn of Africa and its neighbouring areas – in Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea, as well as in the northern part of Sudan and in the southern part of Egypt. It is the most severe form of FGM.

  • 0
    Type 4

    Type 4 Any other procedure, which injures or circumcises the female genitalia. Pricking, piercing, cutting or stretching of the clitoris or the labia, also burning or scarring the genitals as well as ripping of the vaginal opening or the introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina in order to tighten it.

FGM in Europe:
Dates and Facts

  • 700,000


    Up to 700,000 girls and women living in the EU are affected by FGM. 140 000 of them live in the UK, 100 000 in France, 50 000 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The victims are migrants, whose continued this practice when they migrated.

  • Authori-


    In spite of the fact that FGM is in most European countries either directly or indirectly prohibited, the laws are either incomplete or they are not enforced. Although FGM is spreading in Europe, there are hardly any criminal charges and penal procedures.

  • Govern-



    Most European countries hardly invest in awareness training and in investigations. Any efforts – which vary tremendously in their degree – take place within the country borders. FGM is still not considered to be a European problem.

  • Great igno-


    The victims are usually approached in the health sector and by authorities in an inadequate way, ignorance prevails.

  • Part


    FGM is in hardly any European country a regular part of the vocational training of doctors, midwives and social workers.

  • FGM is
    no reason



    No European country explicitly accepts the threat of genital mutilation as a reason for asylum.


What are the consequences of FGM?

Female genital mutilation has serious health (physical and mental!) effects which often occur immediately after the procedure and may cause severe bleeding , infections, tetanus, paralysis of the bladder or blood poisoning, and can even result in death. HIV / AIDS can also be transmitted via the use of dirty instruments. 

In addition to the psychological trauma and the loss of sexual sensation, the victims often complain of long-term pain when urinating and during menstruation. Sitting or even walking can bruise and even re-open the scar tissue due to the constant rubbing of clothing. Cysts, abscesses, bladder infections and incontinence may occur. Infertility is one of the possible long-term consequences. Sexual intercourse is often painful.

Giving birth to a child can increase bleeding and tissue cracks. The birth may take longer than usual and caesarean sections are common.