What is medicalization of FGM ?

WHAT ? Medicalisation of FGM : « Situations in which FGM is practiced by any category of healthcare provider, whether in a public or a private clinic, at home or elsewhere. » (1)

WHO ? Physicians, physician assistants, clinicians, nurses, midwives, trained traditional birth attendants and other healthcare professionals providing health care services to the population, in the private as in the public sector, as well as retired healthcare professionals continuing to perform FGM. (1)

WHERE ? According to a Population Council’s report in February 2017, this practice concerns 26% of women having suffered from an FGM (meaning a total of 16 million women and girls). 91% of these operations took place in Egypt, Sudan as well as Nigeria. Guinea and Kenya also present a substantial rise of the medicalised practice of FGM (2), as well as Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali and Yemen (3).

WHY MAY SOME INDIVIDUALS SUPPORT MEDICALIZED FGM ? To understand why medicalisation is spreading, it is important to apprehend the arguments of individuals, including healthcare professionals, in favour of such practice.

  • The solution of « less bad » : in places where the abandonment of FGM does not appear as immediately reachable, medicalisation may be perceived as a « harm-reduction strategy » (5) which would enable to reduce the risks and medical complications for women who, in any case, would have been subjected to FGM.
  • A way to reduce the importance of the operation: The medicalisation would enable to reduce the type of FGM practiced on the girl or the women when favouring « symbolic » gestures (such as « nicking ») instead of more severe forms of operations practiced by traditional cutters (2).