Female genital mutilation (FGM) is “the procedure whereby the external genitalia (clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora) of a young girl, usually under the age of 15, is either partially or completely removed, resulting in devastating effects for the individual.”

FGM has absolutely no health benefits and leaves its victims with a wide range of both short-term and long-term consequences. Following the cutting, girls often suffer from pain, bleeding, shock, infections – due to the procedure being performed in a traditional dwelling and not a sterile area – and in severe cases; death. For years to come the girls and women experience menstrual, urinary, and vaginal issues, pain and dissatisfaction during sexual encounters, complications during childbirth, and severe psychological problems.

This procedure often occurs predominantly in African, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries, especially in incredibly traditional communities. According to the World Health Organisation, three million girls are mutilated annually and there are over 200 million survivors of FGM worldwide.

In certain cultures and societies, FGM is considered to be an integral part of a girl’s upbringing and families who are hesitant can sometimes be pressured into performing the ritual. Advocates of FGM claim that the procedure ensures that a girl remains a virgin until marriage – by severing the clitoris; the girl’s sexual drive is decreased.

While no proof has been found in religious scriptures supporting FGM, many carry this procedure out on the grounds of religion, while others do so on the grounds of culture or tradition. Regardless of the motive, the practice is incredibly harmful and has been classified as a violation of human rights.

In order to end the vicious cycle of sexual violence against girls and women, measures must be implemented to ensure that FGM is at first, reduced, and finally, eliminated entirely. The origin of FGM lies in the male desire to control female sexuality. Both men and women in these societies must be taught that women have bodily autonomy and that men have no right to control any aspect of a woman’s life. Staunch traditionalists must unlearn past behaviour and be taught to openly advocate for the elimination of FGM.