Find out what it is and why female genital mutilation continues to be carried out. Our country is not left out.
the suffering of female genital mutilation continues to be a reality for millions of children and women around the world today. And although this is a practice that is mainly concentrated in around 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, it also occurs in some places in Asia and Latin America.
In addition, it also continues to be quite common among immigrant populations living in North America, Western Europe, New Zealand and Australia, according to the United Nations.
Despite this, several women who live in our country were also subjected to this tradition. And the truth is that the fact that they have gone through this type of situation and suffering in their lives is crucial in the way they interact in their intimacy, in affective relationships and in life in general.
So, if you thought that this reality was far away, you are wrong. In Portugal, there are also children who may be subjected to this practice.
Thus, knowing what female genital mutilation (FGM) is and acting to prevent it should be a concern for all of us. And the best way to do this is to make known its consequences and risks to health at all levels, clarifying that it is illegal in our country and in many others.
What is female genital mutilation?
We’ve all heard about this topic, but are we on top of it? Do we really know how the process is done and what are the associated risks?
A female genital mutilation is the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia without any kind of medical indication. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the practice as “a procedure that injures the female genitals without medical justification”.
Basically, the vulva is cut – but depending on why FGM is practiced, there are different types of mutilation or cutting.. In addition, it is a harrowing and suffering process, which harms women’s relationships, their health and the way they feel about themselves.
It should also be noted that it is performed mainly on girls between childhood and 15 years old and it is a violation of human rights, as stated by the WHO.
Female genital mutilation is classified into 4 types
Currently, the internationally accepted classification is that of the World Health Organization. This considers that female genital mutilation can be classified into 4 types.
- Type 1: when there is total or partial removal of the clitoris. Also included are situations in which there is only excision of the prepuce of the clitoris, which is called clitoridectomy.
- Type 2: is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without removal of the labia majora.
- Type 3: also known as infibulation, covers cuts in which there is narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a covering seal. The procedure consists of cutting and apposition of the labia minora and/or labia majora, creating an area of fibrosis described as a “sealing membrane”.
- Type 4: includes all other procedures that are harmful and not classified under the other types. Practices such as incisions, piercings, scrapings, scarification and drilling carried out with ritual intent and without any type of medical indication are included here.
FGM poses serious health risks
Throughout the female genital mutilation ritual some children and women die from acute bleeding, septic shock, and infection. As we all know, FGM does not have any kind of associated health benefit and actually ends up harming girls and women in many ways.
Although all types of female genital mutilation are associated with an increased risk of health complications, the risk is higher with more severe forms of mutilation. Among the acute complications we can list:
- severe pain;
- swelling of the genital tissue;
- difficulty urinating or defecating;
- infections by different agents (such as tetanus, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C);
- problems with wound healing;
- severe psychological harm (depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.);
- injury to surrounding genital tissue;
FGM in Portugal
Last year, 190 cases of female genital mutilation were detected by health services – and one of them was practiced in Portugal.
We are facing the highest number since 2014 where 40 cases were flagged, and in 2021 another 52 cases. Which means that in total, during the last 9 years, 853 cases were reported in our country.
According to the report released by the Directorate-General for Health, in International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, the growth trend was only interrupted between 2019 and 2020 – when there was a drop from 126 to 99 cases.
In addition, it is also important to note that the vast majority of records on the electronic health platform are carried out in hospitals or health centers when monitoring the pregnancy, during the puerperium, in consultations or during hospitalization.
Regarding the 190 cases detected in 2022 in Portugal, the majority were carried out in Guinea-Bissau (129) and Guinea (45). The only case reported in our country has no associated reference to when it was done.
As we know that this is not a distant reality even for our small country, it is necessary to be properly informed in order to be able to contribute to the timely detection and prevention of cases of FGM. Being informed has never been more important.