Brief on the medicalization of female genital mutilation

Publication Date: June 2018
Author: UNFPA

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“Medicalization” of FGM refers to situations in which FGM is practised by any category of health care provider, whether in a public or a private clinic, at home or elsewhere. It also includes the procedure of reinfibulation at any point in time in a woman’s life.

FGM can never be “safe,” however, and there is no medical justification for the practice. Even when the procedure is performed in a sterile environment by a health care provider, there is risk of health consequences immediately and later in life. Under any circumstances, FGM violates the right to health, the right to be free from violence, the right to life and physical integrity, the right to non-discrimination, and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

When performed in a clinical setting, FGM violates medical ethics as well and may confer a sense of legitimacy to FGM or give the impression that it is without health consequences, which can undermine efforts towards abandonment.

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