This triptych of three images represents the ongoing practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the unnecessary cutting or removal of female genitalia performed for cultural, religious, and social reasons. At least 200 million girls, predominantly in North Africa and the Middle East, have undergone FGM, typically before they turn 15.
FGM is rooted in gender inequality and reinforces the view that women should not be fully autonomous, but must instead meet the expectations of their families, husbands, and communities. The practice of FGM has many harmful consequences for the girls and women who experience the procedure, including pain, infection, hemorrhaging, urinary tract complications, emotional trauma, and complications during childbirth that pose risks to both mother and child.
Accurate data about the scale of FGM is crucial to ensure that educational campaigns, legal prohibitions, and other tools to end the practice are effective. While public education programs have been helpful in decreasing support for the practice, FGM is frequently practiced in secret, making it difficult to gather accurate data about its scale. Recent studies have found that despite laws prohibiting the practice, FGM is more prevalent in some countries and regions than previous data has shown, underscoring the challenge of ending the practice.