Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls, violating their right to health, physical integrity, mental well-being and security, and in some cases, their right to live. On the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, marked on 6 February, here are key facts about FGM.
1. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have already undergone FGM
Millions of women and girls are still at risk of being cut and if current trends continue, around 15 million additional girls between ages 15-19 be subjected to the procedure by 2030.
2. There is a "cutting season"
For thousands of girls in the UK, the summer holidays mark "cutting season" – when girls are flown abroad to be mutilated. Under the pretence of visiting relatives, girls are then subjected to genital cutting often with non-sterile instruments such as blades or glass.
As FGM is illegal in the UK, cutting girls abroad lessens the chance of parents being caught as the have time to physically heal without missing school.
3. Most girls are cut before they turn 15.
FGM is usually carried out before puberty starts. Hibo Wardere, a campaigner against FGM and author, was subjected to FGM when she was six years-old.
"I remember it felt like my whole body was one fire," Wardere told IBTimes UK in an interview. "It was 'whoosh' and then you don't know what to do. You can't breathe. I screamed for my mother and I screamed for them to stop. I was six years old and I was screaming because I wanted to die."
4. FGM has no health benefits
To the contrary, it harms women and girls in a variety of ways. FGM involves removing and damaging normal genital tissue, which causes extreme pain, bleeding, infections, urinary problems and can lead to shock and death.
Long-term problems include menstrual issues, scar tissue, sexual problems such as pain during sex, an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths and psychological problems such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
5. It is carried out in countries around the world
The countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15-49 are Somalia (98%), Guinea (97%) and Djibouti (93%).
6. There is no good reason to carry out FGM
It is normally carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons, in the belief it will benefit the girl. For example, it is mistakenly believed FGM will prepare a girl for marriage. It is associated with cultural ideals of femininity, womanhood and modesty, which include the idea that certain body parts are unclean or impure.