Female genital mutilation is a cruel ritual, which is traditionally still practiced today, especially in Africa, but also in the Near and Middle East and Asia. Worldwide, 100-150 million girls and women are affected, with about 2 million being added annually, that is more than 5, 000 per day. As more and more women from such cultures migrate to the Western world, these practices are increasingly coming into the public eye. It is believed that about 25, 000 affected women and 6, 000 girls at risk already live in Germany.

In order to protect them from such a fate in the future, the most objective possible education of affected women and girls, the public and especially certain professional groups such as social workers, psychologists, doctors, midwives, nurses and lawyers is extremely important. Only if they are aware of the subject matter and have sufficient training, will it be possible to adequately care for affected and vulnerable women, both socially and medically. In addition to the knowledge about the different practices and their consequences, this also includes the knowledge of the socio-cultural backgrounds and peculiarities. A complex topic that can only be mastered with a lot of dedication, attention, empathy and tolerance.

Cruel rituals

Female circumcision is seen in many of her practicing cultures as a transition from childhood to adulthood. The average age of the girls is 4 to 8 years. The procedures are usually performed without stunning by special circumcisers or traditional midwives with instruments such as knives, razor blades and broken glass under usually horrendous hygienic conditions. The temporal and local origins of the ritual are not well known.

In addition to sociopolitical aspects, traditional doctrines also associate circumcision with ideals of beauty, cleanliness and morality. Circumcision is designed to reduce the woman's sex drive to prevent infidelity before and during marriage. Ultimately, this defines the social status and role of women: under the control of the man and only then worth something, if she undergoes the previous rituals.

  • Sunna: It removes the clitoris' foreskin; rarest form.
  • Clitoridectomy: The clitoris and labia minora are partially or completely removed. Sometimes skin and tissue will be scraped out of the vagina (introcision).
  • Infibulation ("pharaonic circumcision"): The clitoris is completely removed, the labia minora partially or completely. The labia majora are scraped off and then sewn together or stapled together with thorns. For urination and menstruation remains so only a small hole, often not larger than a grain of rice.
  • Variants of different practices.

The physical and psychological consequences for the girls are serious. Not a few die from bleeding, infection and shock immediately after surgery. Longer term mortality is also increased. The most severe menstrual and urinary symptoms, constant pain and recurrent inflammation are common, often lifelong. Also, infertility is not uncommon, women usually have pain during intercourse and suffer from diminished or lack of orgasmic ability.

Another problem is giving birth - for many pregnant women and their children, childbirth ends fatally. In the case of infibulation, the tissue often has to be split again because the outcome is too small for the child's head - after birth, however, the genitals are closed again! Psychologically, too, women often suffer from silence because of the strong taboo of the topic. This can lead to sleep, eating and concentration disorders as well as depression and suicide.


In the countries of origin, but also increasingly in Europe, Canada and the United States, the fight against ritual is mainly done through the education of local women or immigrants. These have joined together in many places in groups and try to make persuasive work, so that the tradition is replaced by reason. They are often supported by money, cars and other resources from international human rights groups such as Terre des Femmes, UNICEF, UN, Amnesty International and INTACT.

In Western industrialized countries, genital mutilation is considered a violation of human rights and prosecuted as a serious personal injury. Even in Germany, it is prohibited - even the attempt is considered a crime. However, until the ultimate goal of UNICEF and UNFPA-the eradication of these practices within three generations-is achieved, much more effort will be required internationally and tirelessly engaged in educational work.

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