A Glimpse into Female Mutilation


Female genitalia mutilations of the fourth type are a category that includes all three types of damaging, or potentially damaging practices that are exercised on the girls’ and women’s genitalia. There are different practices that fall into this category of mutilations. The context, reasons, risks, and consequences of the various practices that are included into the fourth type of the female genitalia mutilations vary enormously. Because of the fact that these practices are generally studied less as compared to cases that are categorized as first, second, and third types, the following evidence is available in the literature.

Pricking, Piercing, Incising and Scraping

Piercing, pricking, and incision are defined as processes during which the female genitalia’s skin is stabbed with the help of a sharp object. During the processes, blood may come out; however, tissue is not removed. Pricking is considered a traditional form of female genital mutilation in some countries (Budiharsana, 2004). At the same time, it can serve as a replacement of some more harsh types of the mutilation. The process of infants’ and young girls’ incision and scraping have been found in Indonesia and West Java (Newland, 2006).


Elongation of the clitoris and/or labia minora is often called elongation. Cases of this form of the fourth type of mutilation have been recorded in southern Africa. In general, girls are told how to elongate their labia using different products, including herbs and oils during a period of several months. There is also evidence that some women continue stretching it after giving a birth to a child. The elongated labia are considered to improve both male and female sexual enjoyment. However, it has been documented that the process of elongating is accompanied with laceration and pain. This practice is mostly common in the communities where women benefit from a relatively higher social status, for example, in the matriarchal societies. This practice is defined as the fourth type of female genital mutilation due to its social convention character, and permanent genital changes (Mwenda, 2006).


Cauterization is another form of female genital mutilations. It is defined as the damage of the tissue after burning it with a hot metal objects. This form of female mutilation is used as a therapy for some health problems, like abscess, bleeding, ulcers, sores, and wounds, as well as for "counter irritation", to stimulate pain in order to ease it in another part of the body.

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Cutting the external female genitalia is common in the regions of Nigeria and is traditionally referred as angurya cuts and gishiri cuts. Angurya cut is another form of conventional surgery that is associated with removal of the hymen, as well as other tissue that surrounds the vaginal orifice. Gishiri cuts are those that are typically made into walls of vagina in the case of the blocked labor (Tahzib, 1983). This practice is considered to have severe risks to health, including bleeding, fistula, and strong pain. Its major difference from other forms of female genitalia mutilations is that it is performed during childbirth and not a routinely like other practices.

Introduction of Harmful Substances

Harmful substances are largely introduced into the female genitalia, in a number of African countries, for a vast variety of reasons. In general, introduction of harmful substances is performed by adult women on themselves in order to make the vagina clean before or after the sexual intercourse. It is also done in order to strengthen or tighten the vagina and, therefore, to improve their partner’s or their own sexual enjoyment. The consequences of the harmful substances introduction depend on the nature of the substances that were used. They also depend on the technique and frequency of these practices (McClelland, et. al, 2006).

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There are some practices that can be categorized as the fourth type of the female genitalia mutilation. All of them are associated with severe health risks and consequences. Through the religious and cultural traditions that are common in African, Indonesian, and Asian countries, a lot of women suffer from this kind of human right’s violation. Therefore, a lot of programs and policies targets raising public awareness about this problem and reduction of this phenomenon, in the world community.

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