​Reaction to paper in JME online on female genital alteration: a compromise solution

Reaction to paper in JME online on female genital alteration: a compromise solution

The End FGM European Network would like to comment on the paper published on 22nd February 2016 in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled ‘Female Genital Alteration: a compromise solution’.

The paper written by Kavita Shah Arora and Allan J Jacobs argues that not all forms of FGM, or, as they call it, female genital alteration (FGA), have lasting effects and that a ‘compromise’ solution could be found in allowing certain forms of mild FGM to be performed in a medicalised setting.

This does not take into account that:

  • The four types of FGM as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) can have short and long term consequences on the physical, mental, emotional and psychological health of a girl or woman. There are no health benefits associated with FGM.
  • Performing these types of procedures would deny that FGM is a violation of human rights and a recognised form of gender-based violence. The medicalisation of FGM can lead to extremely severe consequences.
  • The paper does not recognise the danger of women and girls undergoing FGM more than once during their lifetime – being subjected to this type of procedure would expose them to the danger a more severe form of FGM at a later date.
  • All types of FGM are a violation of children’s rights and women’s rights and go against the principles enshrined in the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (respect of physical and mental integrity, principle of non-discrimination).
  • Accepting certain types of FGM would lead to confusion for communities affected by FGM, health and other types of professionals and for those working to protect the rights of the child. It will adversely affect the work done on raising awareness of FGM, prevention and protection of girls. It adversely affects the message of prevention, which is crucial to bringing an end to the practice of female genital mutilation.
  • The medicalisation of the practice is extremely worrying and is illegal. All types of FGM can lead to consequences of the physical, mental, sexual and psychological health of a woman (such as : painful scarring, infection, haemorrhaging , following even partial Type I form of FGM)
  • We must stop all practices which discriminate against women and which infringe upon the rights and freedom of women and girls and which aim to control female sexuality.
  • Women who could claim international protection for themselves or for their daughters could be refused refugee status if confusion is created around if the type of FGM they have been subjected to constitutes a human rights violation. UNHCR considers FGM as a form of persecution, involving a number of human rights violations. Women and girls around the world should be recognised as refugees on the basis of the claim that they may be subject to FGM.

Female genital mutilation should not be tolerated, in any form.


The End FGM European Network is an European umbrella organisation of fifteen national NGOs working to ensure sustainable European action to end female genital mutilation.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

For all further information regarding this issue, please contact Natalie Kontoulis nkontoulis@endfgm.eu or call 0032 489 709 272.