Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) refers to a cultural practice which involves partial removal of or injury to the female external genitalia for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons. Estimates suggest that there are 100–130 million girls and women currently living with various health consequences from FGM/C. We aimed to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the sexual consequences of FGM/C. A total of 15 studies, of variable methodological quality, with 12,671 participants from seven different countries were included. The majority of the 65 outcomes were statistically associated with FGM/C status at study level. Meta-analysis results showed that compared to women without FGM/C, women who had been subjected to FGM/C were more likely to report dyspareunia (relative risk (RR) = 1.52, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.15, 2.0), no sexual desire (RR = 2.15, 95% CI = 1.37, 3.36) and less sexual satisfaction (standardized mean difference = −0.34, 95% CI = −0.56, −0.13). Heterogeneity precluded additional consideration of other outcomes. The systematic review substantiates the proposition that a woman whose genital tissues have been partly removed is more likely to experience increased pain and reduction in sexual satisfaction and desire. Increased research efforts to investigate the sexual harms from FGM/C are indicated. Sexual education and therapy could be offered to women with FGM/C who want that.
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The terminology used for the cutting of external female genital tissues varies. It has been referred to as ‘female circumcision’, ‘female genital mutilation’, ‘female genital cutting’ and ‘female genital mutilation/cutting’ (WHO 2008). We adopt the official terminology used by UNICEF and UNFPA “female genital mutilation/cutting” in this article.
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We are grateful to the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies for providing financial support for the systematic review. Thank you to R. Elise Johansen, Susan Munabi-Babigumira and Tove Ringerike for valuable comments to earlier drafts of the systematic review.
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Berg, R.C., Denison, E. Does Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) Affect Women’s Sexual Functioning? A Systematic Review of the Sexual Consequences of FGM/C. Sex Res Soc Policy 9, 41–56 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-011-0048-z
- Female genital mutilation/cutting
- Sexual functioning
- Systematic review