B. Impact of FGM on Women and Girls

Women die from FGM on a regular basis. FGM is usually performed in rural communities--not in hospitals--and no medical personnel are in attendance. For these reasons, there are no available statistics on the number of women who die from the procedure, and most reports of deaths are anecdotal.

The effects of the practice are far-reaching. Part of the genitalia is removed without the use of anesthesia, and women are exposed to severe pain and the danger of bleeding to death or contracting a fatal infection. There are many long-term conditions and complications that result from FGM. Many women develop fistula and cysts, which, if untreated, can lead to lifelong incontinence. In addition, female infertility and an increased risk of death to mother and infant are common, as is a woman's diminished sexuality. Some women are unable to achieve an orgasm when both the clitoris has been cut and many of [p793] the vulva nerve endings have been removed. Thus, many may derive little or no pleasure from sexual intercourse.

In addition, women who undergo FGM are at risk for needing a caesarean section, an episiotomy, and an extended hospital stay. According to a study done in one small village of Sierra Leone, eighty-three percent of women who had undergone FGM required medical attention for some condition or injury that resulted from having been cut.

As stated above, few statistics are kept on the death rate of women who have been subjected to FGM, and no statistics are kept on the psychological damages caused by FGM. Little research has been done on this topic. Some researchers say that the psychological effects range from anxiety to severe psychosomatic illnesses. One researcher noted, “Many children exhibit behavioral changes from FGM, but problems may not be evident until the child reaches adulthood.” One can only extrapolate from the fact that the physical ramifications of FGM are so great that there must be similar resultant psychological factors. The silence over the lack of knowledge about the psychological damages from FGM is deafening.