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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Questions and answers (fact sheet)

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What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to the cutting and removal of a girl's or woman's sexual organs.  It includes Sunna (bleeding of the clitoris); removal of the clitoris, part of the labia minora and/or labia majora; and infibulation (the removal of the clitoris and the stitching of the labia minora).

FGM is a traditional practice that has existed for several centuries.  There are many myths about this practice.  FGM is linked to the inequality of women.  It is rooted in the political, social, cultural and economic structures of societies where it is practised.  It is part of the discrimination women experience as much in their public lives as in their private lives.

FGM is not a religious practice.  It is a cultural practice that has been passed from one generation to the next to control young women and their sexuality.  FGM is a painful procedure that affects the health, sexuality and quality of life of women.  FGM is an act of violence against girls that will have an effect on their adult lives.

Why is Canada participating in an international effort to eliminate FGM? 

Many women living in Canada come from areas or countries where FGM is practised.  Many live in Ontario.

FGM violates the rights of women and girls.

How does FGM relate to human rights?

Children's and women's rights are protected by several international agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the African Charter of Human and People's Rights.

According to the Ontario Human Rights Code, every woman and girl has the right to the respect of her human dignity.  This includes the right to control her own body and the right not to undergo harmful practices simply because of her sex.

What are my rights and responsibilities?

FGM is prohibited in Canada.

If you have been subjected to FGM or you come from an area or country where FGM is practised, you have the right to be free from discrimination and unfair treatment by your employer, your colleagues and your teachers.

If you have been subjected to FGM, you have the right to receive appropriate medical care from your doctor or health service provider.