Female Genital Mutilation: A Religious Right or Human Rights Abuse

The research article is based on the concept of whether Female Genital Mutilation is a cultural right or direct human rights abuse. This article points out the harmful and probably permanent effect of this act on the females, both physically and mentally. It also covers the area of the cultural belief that gave rise to FGM and also how it has been finally started to be a human rights abuse.

This article aims to show how certain inhuman acts take place especially against women in the name of cultural beliefs. It is extremely unjustified to present culture and religion as an excuse to perform acts like these.


For thousands of years, the females have been subjected to inhuman acts in the name of culture and religion. Almost 2 hundred million girls and ladies are estimated to possess undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a standard practice that involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. World Health Organization (WHO) defined female genital mutilation (FGM) as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitals, or another injury to the feminine genital organs for non-medical reasons [1].

FGM is and will always be a dire violation of human rights, particularly women and children’s rights, and leads to severe health complications, including but not limited to death, disability, miscarriage, stillbirth, shock, hemorrhage, sepsis, sexual dysfunction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Despite decades of concerted efforts to eradicate or abandon the practice of Female Genital Mutilation or FGM along with the increased need for clear guidance on the treatment and care of girls who have undergone FGM, present efforts haven’t yet been ready to effectively curb the number of girls subjected to the present practice nor are they sufficient to reply to health needs of many women and girls living with FGM.[i]

 Although the practice isn’t sanctioned by any religion and is against the law in many countries, it’s still prevalent in 30 African countries, a couple of in Asia and therefore the Middle East, and, thanks to international migration, across the world.

Types & Effect of FGM

The practice is deep-rooted in gender disparity, cultural uniqueness, and concepts about purity, modesty, esthetics, status, and honor. Moreover, it acts as an attempt to manage women’s sexual life by reducing their concupiscence, thus promoting chastity and fidelity. It is performed at the age of 4 years up to puberty. It’s usually performed reception without anesthesia.

Female genital mutilation is assessed into 4 major types.

  • Type 1: This is often the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans (the external and visual part of the clitoris, which is a sensitive part of the feminine genitals), and/or the prepuce/ clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoral glans).
  • Type 2: This is often the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without removal of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva).
  • Type 3: Also referred to as infibulation, this is often the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is made by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoral prepuce/clitoral hood and glans (Type I FGM).
  • Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures to the feminine genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.[ii]

De-infibulation refers to the practice of cutting open the sealed vaginal opening of a lady who has been infibulated, which is usually necessary for improving health and well-being and also to allow intercourse or to facilitate childbirth.

The consequences of FGM have both physiological and psychological complications, including short and long-term complications. The tactic through which the procedure is performed may determine the extent of the short-term complications. If the method was completed using unsterile equipment, no antiseptics, and no antibiotics, the victim may have increased the risk of complications. Primary infections include staphylococcus infections, tract infections, excessive and uncontrollable pain, and hemorrhaging.

Infections like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Chlamydia trachomatis, Clostridium tetani, herpes simplex virus (HSV) 2 are significantly more common among women who underwent Type 3 mutilation compared with other categories. This is so because the short-term complications manifest, mortality risk increases due to the limited health care available in low-income economies. While data on the mortality of women who underwent FGM are unknown and hard to acquire, it’s estimated that 1 in every 500 circumcisions leads to death. The assumption that the procedure produces protective factors against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), very similar to male circumcision, was disproved during a case-control study conducted in Sudan.

Even after the mutilated area heals, victims suffer the long-term consequences of the abuse through both physiological and psychological complications and substantial complications during childbirth.

Cultural Belief

The reasons why female genital mutilations are performed vary among different regions and also as over time, and include a mixture of sociocultural factors within families and communities. Where FGM may be a social convention (social norm), the social pressure to evolve to what others do and are doing, also because they got to be accepted socially and therefore the fear of being rejected by the community, are strong motivations to perpetuate the practice.

 In some communities, FGM is nearly universally performed and unquestioned. FGM is usually considered a necessary part of raising a woman, and how to organize her for adulthood and marriage. FGM is usually motivated by beliefs about what’s considered acceptable sexual behavior. It aims to make sure premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to scale back a woman’s libido and thus believed to assist her to resist extramarital sexual acts. [iii]When a vaginal opening is roofed or narrowed, the fear of the pain of opening it, and therefore the fear that this may be acknowledged, is predicted to further discourage extramarital sexual activity among women with this sort of FGM.

Where it’s believed that being cut increases marriageability, FGM is more likely to be administered. FGM is related to cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and delightful after the removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine, or male [2].

Religious leaders take varying positions regarding FGM: some support it, some consider it irrelevant to religion while some contribute to its elimination. Certain structures of power and authority, like community leaders, religious leaders, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice. Likewise, when informed, they will be effective advocates for the abandonment of FGM. In most societies, where FGM is practiced, it’s considered a cultural tradition, which is usually used as an argument for its continuation. Sometimes it’s started as a part of a wider religious or traditional revival movement.

Human Rights Abuse

Violence against women and girls has been in effect throughout the planet and crosses cultural and economic boundaries. Throughout the past 20 years, extensive research has been done on such violence and its underlying causes and risk factors. One major indicator of gender inequality is female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/). FGM is linked to child marriage, forced sexual debut, and health complications across the life course. FGM is considered to be a human rights violation, a sort of torture, and an extreme sort of violence and discrimination against girls and ladies, rooted in harmful gender norms. The continuation of FGM sustains massive gender inequalities in practicing societies because it limits opportunities for ladies and girls to understand their full rights and potential.

To eliminate the practice, addressing the empowerment of women and ladies is vital. This will have a positive impact on gender relations, sexual and reproductive health choices, and health-related behavior generally, thus accelerating progress in the abandonment of the practice. The UN, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), and other anti-FGM organizations have adopted various strategies to boost awareness of and work toward ending FGM [3].

The right to participate in cultural life and therefore the right to freedom of faith is protected by the law of nations. However, the law of nations stipulates that the liberty to manifest one’s religion or beliefs could be subject to limitations necessary to guard the elemental rights and freedoms of others. Therefore, social and cultural claims like those protected in article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights can’t be evoked to justify FGM. The legislation is a crucial tool for eradicating FGM because it can challenge the normally established order by providing legitimacy to new behaviors—but unless it’s amid measures aimed toward influencing cultural traditions and expectations, it tends to be ineffective.[iv]

Support for a culture of FGM is expressed through a reluctance to stay in support of anti-FGM laws and to present evidence against relations, friends, or neighbors, also as criticism or sarcasm directed toward law enforcers. During several cases, local law enforcers and anti-FGM crusaders (such as pastors, chiefs, assistant chiefs, and other leaders) may experience a conflict of loyalty by enforcing the law, because it puts them at odds with the local culture, a process sometimes mentioned as “social nullification.” While criminalizing harmful cultural practices like FGM is important, it can equally generate rebellion geared toward circumventing or resisting the law.


From the above explanation and the stated facts, it is visible that women have always been a victim of societal unjustified culture and its practices. FGM is a globally concerned subject that has led gender discrimination to a different level of inhumanity. Millions of victims, among which some even died, have obtained this scar for their entire life, and surprisingly even after so much of efforts, women still face this act of FGM in many countries.

However, a lot of development through the anti-FGM organizations and changed laws has helped to eradicate the concept of FGM from certain areas but there is still a lot to achieve. A greater understanding of FGM will help health professionals to enhance the health care provided and cease further alienation of the ladies involved. Increasing awareness by educating the communities involved could help to challenge themselves harmful practices. Changing traditional practices that have existed for hundreds of years may be a slow and uphill process.


  • What is Female Genital Mutilation or FGM?
    • Female genital mutilation consists of the (partial or complete) removal of the external female genitals, and therefore the infliction of other injuries to the feminine genitalia for no medical reasons. There are several variations, including partial or complete removal of the clitoris, of the labium and Majora, the narrowing of the vaginal opening by joining the 2 sides of the wound, leaving only a little opening for urine and menstrual fluids, and the other non-medical injury like scraping, incising, pricking or burning.
  • How is FGM related to human rights abuse?
    • Children’s and women’s rights are protected by several international agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All sorts of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention of the Rights of the kid, and therefore the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights.

FGM is a complete violation of women’s and children’s human rights, including their rights to health, protection from violence, to life and physical integrity, to non-discrimination, and to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

  • Why is it practiced?
    • In many of the countries where FGM is performed, it’s a deeply entrenched social norm rooted in gender inequality where violence against girls and ladies is socially acceptable.

The reasons behind the practice vary. In some cases, it’s seen as a rite of passage into womanhood, while others see it as how to suppress a woman’s sexuality. Many communities practice genital mutilation within the belief that it’ll ensure a girl’s future marriage or family honor.

  • How can the government and the medical community help in eradicating FGM?
    • The medical profession plays a crucial role in helping to finish this harmful practice. Health care workers have a primary responsibility to disseminate accurate information on the health effects of the practice, and will therefore be fully conscious of the results of FGM. they ought to even be ready to treat complications resulting from FGM.

 To be effective, FGM eradication programs can also be led by governments and administered at national, regional, and native levels. Certain steps that can be taken are: Making a robust and visual political commitment to ending FGM; developing a legislative and policy framework to eradicate FGM, including a law banning the practice for women and non-consenting adult women; mainstreaming FGM prevention strategies into policies and programs that affect reproductive health, education, and literacy development; Mobilizing communities to develop their own FGM eradication strategies.

  • What are the effects of FGM?
    • FGM has both long-term and short-term effects on the health of women and girls. Physical health implications may include severe bleeding or hemorrhaging, shock from the pain related to the procedure, risk of infections – especially when unsterile cutting instruments are used or if they’re used on several girls directly and retentiveness.

Long-term complications include anemia, cysts, scarring, difficulty passing urine, menstrual disorders, recurrent tract infections, fistulas, prolonged labor, and infertility. Mental and emotional health implications may include depression, anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychosexual problems, and other psychological state problems. FGM may be a medically unnecessary and irreversible procedure that damages the health of many girls worldwide.


  1. Khosla, R., Banerjee, J., Chou, D., Say, L., & Fried, S. T. (2017). Gender equality and human rights approach to female genital mutilation: a review of international human rights norms and standards. Reproductive health14(1), 59.
  2. Elliot Klein, Elizabeth Helzner, Michelle Shayowitz, Stephan Kohlhoff, Tamar A. Smith-Norowitz (2018). “Female Genital Mutilation: Health Consequences and Complications- A Short Literature Review”, Obstetrics and Gynecology International, vol. 2018, Article ID 7365715, 7 pages.
  3. Fisaha KG (2016) Female Genital Mutilation: A Violation of Human Rights. J Pol Sci Pub Aff 4: 198. doi:10.4172/2332-0761.1000198

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