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WHO Releases New Guidelines on How to Take Care Girls and Women Subjected to Female Genital Mutilation

May 18, 2016 12:50 AM EDT
Female Genital Mutilation
WHO releases new guidelines for health care providers discussing how to improve health care of girls and women that underwent female genital mutilation
(Photo : Graeme Robertson/Getty Images)

Female Genital Mutilation is a worldwide practice that is deeply rooted in gender inequality, attempts to control women's sexuality and ideas about purity, modesty and aesthetics.

The most common procedures used in FGM are clitoridectomy and excision. Clitoridectomy is the partial or full removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce, while excision is the partial of total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.

According to the report of the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 200,000 girls and women in the world living with FGM. Despite its cultural values, FGM provides no health benefits. In fact, FGM poses grave threat to women's health.

Immediate dangers of FGM include severe bleeding and infection that result to sudden death. Long term complications of FGM include recurring urinary tract infections, menstrual problems, reproductive tract infections, PTSD and depression, sexual dysfunction and pain, and chronic genital pain. WHO also noted that FGM can also affect childbirth and increase risk of infant death.

Due to the increasing numbers of girls and women with FGM in the United States caused by migration, WHO releases a new guidelines for health care providers on how to care for patients with FGM.

WHO strongly recommends deinfibulation for women who have their vaginal openings closed to further prevent urologic complications such as recurrent urinary tract infections and urinary retention. Women with FGM showing signs and symptoms anxiety disorders, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should consider undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

WHO also urges health care providers to responsibly provide accurate and clear information, education and communication regarding the different types of FGM and their respective immediate and long term health risk.

In the United States, the practice of FGM on any minor younger than 18 years of age has a corresponding federal criminal penalties, including fines and up to five years of imprisonment. It is also against the law to transport a girl younger than 18 years old outside of the country for the sole purpose of FGM.

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