Position Statements

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation forms part of traditional practice in certain countries where it is embedded in a patriarchal power structure and a desire to control the lives of women. In societies where it is practiced, many men and women have come to the belief that this practice is beneficial and in the best interests of the females concerned. Apart from many medical complications there are varying degrees of disfigurement occurring. Several complications may occur in childbirth. The critical issue remains, however, that women's rights are violated by non-therapeutic injury to the genital organs, an issue that is larger than sensitivity to different cultural practices.

Women with female genital mutilation are seen in South Africa with increasing frequency, most likely not by a new move among local peoples to institute this practice, but as an effect of migration of people through the continent of Africa.

World wide statements and declarations have been made against the practice of female genital mutilation. SASOG adds its voice against female genital mutilation, and urges all members, health care workers and the health authorities of South Africa to:

  1. oppose all forms of female genital mutilation

  2. be sensitive to the culture of patients and parents that may request female genital mutilation

  3. actively dissuade families from carrying out female genital mutilation

  4. provide patients, parents and society with compassionate education about the physical harms and psychological risks of female genital mutilation

  5. decline to participate or perform any non-therapeutic procedure that alters the genitalia of female infants, young girls or female adolescents

  6. be cognisant of legislation that has been or may be put in place to protect the rights of children and of women

  7. become acquainted with the obstetric and gynaecologic complications of female genital mutilation in order to manage women who were victims of female genital mutilation when they were minors

Prepared by Prof Graham Howarth and Dr Siva Moodley.
Edited by Prof Gerhard Lindeque
August 2001