Intended for healthcare professionals


Collecting data on female genital mutilation

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 13 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3222
  1. Katrina Erskine, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist
  1. 1Homerton Hospital, London E9 6SR, UK
  1. katrina.erskine{at}

UK government’s actions still characterised by a failure to think things through

Female genital mutilation is defined by the World Health Organization as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genitalia for non-medical reasons.” A horrendous form of child abuse, in its most extreme form (type 3) it involves removing the clitoris and labia and narrowing the vaginal introitus. More than 100 million women worldwide are affected.

The procedure has many complications including dyspareunia, sepsis, and death—procedure related mortality was estimated at 2.3% in one country.1 It is done for many reasons—there is no single religious basis. In some cultures a woman who has not undergone the procedure may be thought unmarriageable. In women with type 3 mutilation, the introitus may be too narrow for childbirth, and the tissues that have sealed together need to be separated; this is termed deinfibulation. Female genital mutilation was made an offence in 1985 in the United Kingdom, with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

A government declaration to end the practice …

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