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Lottery of birth
Lottery of birth

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2.3 What is FGM?

That there has been huge positive change to the lives of girls and women all around the world is pretty clear. But the campaign against female genital mutilation demonstrates how deeply rooted and difficult to change some cultural practices can be.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an example of how, in some cultures, there remain certain practices that aim to control women’s sexuality and sexual lives.

Described image
Figure 6 A counsellor in Minia, Egypt, holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutilation.

Female genital mutilation refers to the procedures that alter and cause harm to the female genital organs (clitoris, labia and vagina) for non-medical reasons. Despite being illegal in many countries, it continues, severely damaging women’s sexual lives and their ability to give birth safely. It is a cultural practice rather than a religious one and in some countries organised religion has been influential in changing opinions about FGM.

Fighting against these practices and protecting girls from a painful and traumatic experience is an example of how girls and women in those communities affected have been empowered. Campaigns like this positively values girls and women and ensures that the life chances of everyone are improved, making birth less of a lottery.

In the next section, you will find out about some young women who are fighting to change this deeply rooted practice within their communities.