You Are Not Alone

Every 16 seconds a girl is cut…

Many girls and young women suffer serious psychological distress, serious medical consequences, sexual difficulties and social stigmatisms from the effects of FGC.

The initial traumatic emotional effects of FGC include fear, flash backs, helplessness, horror, anxiety, terror, humiliation and betrayal. Many women have expressed feelings of shame over being different and ‘less than.’ Other long term mental health effects include chronic irritability, anxiety, periods of depression, sexual difficulties including fear of having sex and of giving birth.

There are three primary psycho-sexual issues commonly associated with FGC: painful intercourse, difficulties reaching orgasm, and the absence or reduction of sexual desire. Many women suffer from intrusive re-experiences; because of repeated pain during sexual activities women may develop anxiety responses to sex and this can restrict or diminish arousal and increase frustration due to delayed sexual arousal, all of which contribute to vaginal dryness, muscular spasm and painful intercourse.

The immediate physical effects of FGC are traumatically devastating and may involve excessive bleeding which can result in death. Lifelong health complications can occur such as severe pain during urination, menstruation, sexual intercourse and childbirth. In the infibulated state scar tissue blocking the urethral or vaginal opening can lead to a buildup of urine and menstrual blood which can in turn cause chronic pelvic and urinary tract infections. The infections can lead to back pain, kidney damage, severe uterine cramping and infertility. If sebaceous glands in the skin become embedded in the stitched area during surgery, cysts the size of grapefruits may form along the scar. Nerve endings can also become entrapped in the scar, causing extreme pain during sex.

Childbirth poses many special dangers for the infibulated woman. The baby’s head may push through the perineum, the muscular area between the vagina and the anus. Sometimes fistulas (abnormal passage) develop between the bladder and vagina due to damage caused by obstructed, prolonged labor, complicated by the inelastic scar tissue of infibulation. Women who develop fistulas may suffer frequent miscarriages because of urine seeping into the uterus. In addition, and most unfortunately, these women often smell of urine and become outcasts within their community.

Despite these health consequences, FGC related complications are often normalized for groups practicing this tradition. Parents are often unaware of the harmful physical consequences of the custom, because the complications of FGC are attributed to other causes and are rarely discussed outside of the family. Girls and young women who undergo this dangerous experience become heroic and honorable believing that FGC exemplifies beauty and courage. Cutting becomes a test of bravery and proof that they will be able to endure the pain of childbirth.