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FGM - Procedure

The operation is usually performed by old women or traditional birth attendants, also known as cirumcisers or excisors. They are mostly women except in some places such as Nigeria where barbers do the operation. Mothers never circumcise their own daughters but assist the excisors by holding the hand or feet of their daughter. Men are rarely present at the operation of their daughters.

The circumcisers use special knives, scissors, razor blades, kitchen knives or pieces of glass for the operation. For example, a survey of 300 women in western Sierra Leone showed that in 81 of the cases razor blades were used, traditional knives in 166, surgical scalpel 6, broken bottles 4, and others 12 (Statistical Record of women worldwide).

In most cases anaesthetics and antiseptics are generally not used. Physical force is used when necessary to control a struggling girl during the operation which in most cases will make the operator miss the target and cut also the surrounding parts of the clitoris. The operations are done under unhygenic condition with the instrument of operation being used over and over without cleaning which could be a reason for the transmission of HIV and other infections.


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In cases of initation, where a group of similar age-groups under go the operation, it is usually performed under a special tree or a site selected for the occasion ouside the village, and inside a hut or backyard in individual cases. Individual operations may take place either at the home or work place of the excisor or the home of the individual to be excised. In the latter case, the excisor will have the privilege of taking part in the festivity following the operation. The places where the operations take place are usually unhygenic for any form of operation and help to spread a variety of bacterial viruses and infections. In some urban areas the operation is done in hospitals or clinics.

Age of Operation

The age at which the operation is performed varies from community to community and ranges from new born babies aged 7 or 8 days, as in Ethiopia and partly Nigeria, to puberty. Traditionally, in Africa as a puberty rite it was performed at the age of 12 to 15 years, just before the onset of menustration. Recent studies have shown that most parents have their children operated when they are within the 4 to 10 years age. For example, in the case of Senegal 84.5% of the children are circumcised before they reach their 10th birthday (Diallo 1998). Now the age for operation had gradually been reduced so that the children are in a position not to complain or rebel.


"25 percent die from long-term consequences such as infections with AIDS and hepatitis and complications during childbirth"



WHO page on FGM: www.who.int
UNICEF page on FGM: www.unicef.org
Homeapge of Inter-African Committee: www.iac-ciaf.net
United Nations Population Fund: http://www.unfpa.org/gender-based-violence