Female genital mutilation

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that today there are between 130 million and 140 million women and girls who are the victims of genital mutilation. It is estimated that 3 million girls are subjected to this each year. In Sweden, attention has been drawn to the issue in connection with people, mainly from Africa, migrating to Western countries. Calculations by the National Board of Health and Welfare show that 38,000 women in Sweden, including 7000 girls under age 18, may have been subjected to some form of genital mutilation. Girls whose parents come from countries where genital mutilation is practised are at risk of being subjected to this in the future.

Female genital mutilation is linked to a traditional view of femininity and is intended to control the sexuality and sexual purity of girls and women. The practice is older than both Islam and Christianity, and although it is not a religious custom it occurs in both of these religions. The procedure can have serious medical consequences – both physical and psychological. Problems of varying severity can occur depending on the extent of the procedure. Immediate effects are severe pain, bleeding, infections, mental shock and damage to nearby organs, such as the ureter. In the long term, the procedure can lead to vaginal pain, scarring, cysts, urinary tract disorders, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, pain during intercourse, and complications during pregnancy and childbirth. WHO classifies the procedure into four major types, where different amounts of the genitals are removed. The least severe procedure involves pricking the clitoris with a sharp object. The most common procedure involves cutting away the clitoris and the inner labia. A more extensive procedure involves also cutting away the outer labia and then sewing the genitals closed, leaving only a small opening to allow urine and menstrual blood to pass through.

The genital mutilation of girls and women in any form is prohibited by law in Sweden. Read more about female genital mutilation on the website of UNICEF or the National Board of Health and Welfare.

If you are experiencing physical or psychological problems that may be the result of genital mutilation, you can seek help from Södersjukhuset in Stockholm. You can also contact Social Services or a women’s shelter to talk about how you’re feeling and to get support and help. If you are worried that a child has been or is at risk of being genitally mutilated, report this to Social Services.