Sexual and reproductive health

Female genital mutilation and other harmful practices


Female genital mutilation has been practised in some form or other for several thousand years, yet scientific research into the reasons why it continues today and the full extent of the health damage it causes has been limited. Fortunately, knowledge is growing about how female genital mutilation can be reduced and how complications can be treated. Nevertheless, much of the knowledge that exists is published in journal articles and is not necessarily widely known

This site aims to bring together what knowledge we have from research on female genital mutilation and on interventions that have taken place to improve the health of women who have undergone the procedure. As many aspects of female genital mutilation are still under-documented, WHO encourages researchers who have studied aspects of it to share the benefits of their research with us to help clinicians and campaigners to improve the lives of women and girls whose health is damaged or threatened by this unnecessary and harmful procedure.

Research continues to be needed on aspects that will contribute to the elimination and prevention of FGM and better care for girls and women who have been subjected to the practice.

Topics that require further studies include: the dynamics of social and cultural change that lead to the abandonment of the practice, the prevalence of immediate health complications, girls' experiences of the practice, psychological consequences of FGM, care procedures for girls and women and birth care procedures that might reduce the risks from FGM for mothers and their babies, the impact of legal measures to prevent the practice, and its medicalization.

WHO welcomes contributions from researchers who have completed or are currently involved in research into FGM – whether as a social and cultural phenomenon, as a threat to physical or mental health, or as a source of complications that need effective management. This latter area is especially lacking in detail – just what are the most effective methods of managing the complications suffered by girls and women who have undergone FGM?

The research has been grouped into the following areas of work :