Female circumcision

This is also referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is prohibited in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, some 40 to 50 girls undergo this practice in the Netherlands every year. This is because migrants from countries or regions where FGM is customary have travelled to the Netherlands and perform the practice on girls here.

What is it?

Female circumcision involves removing some or all of the clitoris and sometimes the labia. In its most serious form, the clitoris and labia are removed and the vaginal opening is closed, leaving only a very small opening for urine and menstrual blood.


When and why?

Girls are normally circumcised before they have their first period. It is performed for cultural reasons. It:

  • prevents the woman from enjoying sex
  • protects the girl’s virginity
  • increases the chance of marriage
  • confers a certain status
  • symbolises the change from girl to woman

Female circumcision is often mistakenly associated with religion. The term ‘female circumcision’ does not appear in the Koran and this procedure therefore has nothing to do with Islam. A number of Muslim clerics have issued a fatwa against female circumcision. They believe that this mutilation is harmful to a woman’s health and must therefore be stopped.


Female cumcision is mainly practised in certain parts of Africa (e.g. Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan), the Middle East (including the autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq and the Yemen) and parts of Asia.


The procedure often causes blood loss and infections, allowing viruses and bacteria (so STIs) to enter the body more easily. Girls who have been circumcised suffer from urinary tract infections, problems with urination and problems with pregnancy and birth. If the clitoris has been removed, a woman can no longer reach orgasm via the clitoris. This has a major impact on her enjoyment of sex.

In brief: the consequences of circumcision are severe and far-reaching, both sexually and psychologically. If you have been circumcised, you run additional risks of bleeding and STIs. We recommend that you visit your GP or community health clinic (GGD). Some community health clinics run a special surgery for questions about FGM.


In the Netherlands, Pharos, a knowledge and advice centre fights for migrants and refugees against female circumcision.


The Federation of Somalian Associations in the Netherlands (FSAN) campaigns with bodies such as Pharos and community health clinics (GGD) against female circumcision. The organisation raises awareness among women that lots of problems are associated with circumcision. FSAN believes it is important that not only women, but also men, are informed. FSAN believes that female circumcision is a problem for the entire community. The man has an important role in the family and he also needs to be properly informed. FSAN therefore trains male key figures who talk to men in the African communities.