The Orchid Project is a charity supported by Organ(y)c to help fight against Female Genital Cutting.
What is female genital cutting (FGC)?
• FGC is a harmful practice where part or all of a girl’s external genitals are forcibly removed.
• In Africa alone, 30 million girls are at risk of being cut over the next decade; over 200 million women and girls worldwide are living with the devastating effects and 3.6 million girls are cut each year.
• FGC serves no medical purpose and leads to many severe impacts throughout life, while the practice is not required or recommended by any religion.
• In half of the countries that practice FGC, the majority of girls are cut before age 5; elsewhere, cutting occurs between 5 and 14 years of age.
• Those who have experienced FGC will be affected physically, psychologically and socio-economically.
• The practice contravenes human, women’s and child rights.
• FGC is a social norm: a parent will have their child cut because they believe it is the right thing to do, but also that the community believes it is the right thing to do. Pressures of marriage among the community continue to reinforce this.
Where does FGC take place?
This map shows where FGC takes place globally, colours indicating overall prevalence in a country. There are countries and regions where FGC is known to take place but insufficient data exists, marked in orange.
• FGC happens worldwide, in 27 countries in Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Asia.
• More than half of women and girls affected live in three countries – Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia
• Girls in Europe, North America and Australasia living in diaspora communities are also cut.
• Over half a million women and girls in the U.S. are at risk of undergoing FGC in the U.S. or abroad.
• Recent Unicef statistics (2016) recognise FGC in Indonesia where 49% of girls (0-11) are cut.
The effects of FGC over the course of a lifetime
• Shock, fear, pain and psychological trauma
• Infection, septicemia, tetanus and septic shock
• Other lacerations around the area e.g. thighs, vagina, anus
• Urine retention, and psychosomatic urine retention due to fear and pain
• The highest rates of maternal and infant mortality occur in FGC practising regions.
• In 2006 WHO found that women who have undergone more extreme forms of FGC are 70% more likely to suffer post-partum haemorrhage and 30% more likely to require a caesarean section than other women. There are also likely to be 1 or 2 infant deaths per 100 births among women who have undergone FGC (of all types), largely as a result of obstructed labour.
• FGC can sometimes be performed by medical practitioners under sanitised conditions. It is believed that globally, more than 18% of all FGC is now carried out in this way.
How FGC is ending in Africa
• In West Africa there is an incredible grassroots movement of communities that are abandoning FGC, based around the community empowerment programmes of Tostan, a Senegal-based organisation and Orchid Project’s partner.
• In Senegal alone, over 6,000 communities have declared their abandonment of FGC, while across West Africa almost 8,000 communities in total have declared abandonment.
• Drops in prevalence rates have also been seen in countries like Burkina Faso, Kenya and Liberia.
• On December 21st 2012, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution ‘Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilation’.
• This resolution was supported by the African Union, marking a concerted effort by African countries to be at the forefront of change.
• In 2013, the UK’s DFID committed £47 million over 5 years to invest in ending FGC. Of this, £19m was allocated to the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme for the ‘accelerated abandonment’ of FGC. The program is active in 17 countries across Africa and works on the basis of a social change model. Other elements included research, social change communications and support to Sudan.
• FGC has been included within the Global Goals. Under Goal 5 for gender equality lies Target 5.3 and Indicator 5.3.2 dedicated to ending the practice in all countries.
• Data on the prevalence, scale and impact of FGC is poor and more research is needed.
• Acknowledging FGC as a social norm is vital in understanding why FGC happens, how it can be prevented and ultimately abandoned.
• There is a need to support the target within the Global Goals to eliminate harmful traditional practices, including FGM and child marriage. This will involve supporting countries to develop national action plans and to measure prevalence globally, including countries in the Middle East and Asia where no data currently exists.
• Where the social norm of FGC is in place, the fear of social exclusion may be stronger than that of prosecution and thus the law on its own is not a strong enough deterrent. A focus on sanctions can then serve to drive the practice underground. However, amongst groups that have chosen to abandon FGC – through community initiatives – legislation can provide a supporting argument to their decision and in convincing others to abandon too.
• A joined up approach across sectors is vital. Successful models of intervention operate at the community level and offer rights-based education to all members of the community so that empowerment happens at all levels and individuals are able to decide not to cut their daughters.
For more information go to: www.orchidproject.org
Orchid Project is a charity registered in the UK 1141057