Do you have a question about female genital cutting?

We can advise you!

What is female genital cutting?

Female genital cutting is just that: the cutting of female genitalia. Several different forms and practices exist, and the girls’ age at which the cutting is performed varies considerably.

Read more about this.

Where can I get help?

Many women and girls who have been cut find it difficult to talk about their questions and problems. We will help you and provide you with free and confidential advice.

Contact us.

Tradition Says ‘Yes’. I Say ‘No!’

Tradition is often used to justify female genital cutting of girls. But traditions can and do change. Join us to help protect girls from female genital cutting.

We support your efforts.

What are the health consequences?

Many women and girls who have been cut suffer from negative consequences to their physical and mental health as a result of the practice.

You have a right to get help!

Where is female genital cutting practised?

Female genital cutting is still being performed on girls and women in many countries. Worldwide, over 200 million girls and women have undergone genital cutting. An additional three million infants and very young girls are cut each year.

In which countries?

Is female genital cutting against the law?

Female genital cutting is against the law in Switzerland and in most other countries. Women and girls have the right to protection and help.

Get informed.

Frequently asked Questions

There are many questions and a lot of uncertainty about female genital cutting out there.

You can find answers here.

What is Female Genital Cutting?

The region and the community a girl lives in determines which of the various forms of female genital cutting she undergoes. Female genital cutting is classified into the following four types:

  • Type I (incision): partial or total removal of the external clitoris
  • Type 2 (excision): partial or total removal of the external clitoris and the labia minora (inner lips)
  • Type 3 (infibulation or “pharaonic circumcision”): Narrowing of the vaginal opening by cutting and sewing the labia minora and/or the labia majora. Sometimes, but not always, the clitoris is also cut.
  • Type 4: All other practices that involve injury to the female genitalia. For example, pricking or piercing of the inner and outer genitalia.

The age at which female genital cutting is performed on girls varies a great deal. In some communities, girls are cut during the first months of their lives. In other communities the cutting is performed when girls are between the ages of four and eight years old. There are, however, also communities that perform female genital cutting during puberty or on adult women. In some cases, for instance, the vaginal opening of an adult woman is stitched closed again (reinfibulation) after she gives birth.  
If you would like to find out in which parts of the world and the frequency of female genital cutting, you can find a map providing an overview here.

Please contact us if you have questions about female genital cutting or if you need help: Free information and advice.

Where can I get help?

Do you have questions about women’s health issues and female genital cutting? Send us an e-mail or call us:

Denise Schwegler, Caritas Schweiz

Denise Schwegler
Caritas Switzerland

Simone Giger

Simone Giger
Caritas Switzerland

Please contact us to arrange a meeting. Counselling is free. We are also happy to answer your questions anonymously and with an interpreter or translator.
Men are also welcome to get in touch.

Contacts in an emergency (24 hour services):

  • Tel 143 Helpline of Die Dargebotene Hand/La Main Tendue (“The Helping Hand”)
  • Tel. 147 Helpline for children and teenagers
  • Tel. 117 Police
  • Frauenhäuser Schweiz (Women's Shelters of Switzerland)
  • Mädchenhaus Zürich (Shelter for Girls Zürich)

Tradition says ‘Yes’. I say ‘No!’

10 reasons why female genital cutting should no longer be practised:

  1. Female genital cutting is a violation of human rights
  2. Every child has a right to a healthy body
  3. None of the writings of the world's major religions contains any obligation to practise female genital cutting.
  4. Girls' bodies are perfect the way God made them
  5. Female genital cutting is against the law in Switzerland, as well as in many other countries
  6. Girls and women who have not been cut suffer less pain, are healthier and live longer
  7. Female genital cutting can cause infertility
  8. Women who have not been cut have fewer problems during childbirth
  9. Female genital cutting is not what determines whether a woman is faithful to her husband
  10. It is very difficult for girls and women who have been cut to live in a society that condemns this tradition

Do you want to take a stand against this tradition? We will support you with advice and information.

The video below shows an imam and a pastor both saying that female genital cutting does not have religious origins! It also shows two women talking about the issue. “Women who haven’t been cut can be good wives!”

What are the health consequences?

Female genital cutting has dangerous consequences for the health of girls and women. Some even die as a result of the physical trauma. The possible consequences of female genital cutting include:

  • Fear, stress, trauma and shock
  • Infections
  • Pain during menstruation or urination
  • Loss of control over urination
  • Problems with scar tissue
  • Painful and complicated childbirth, for both mother and child
  • Infertility
  • Pain during sex and decreased sexual desire

Not all women and girls who have been cut live with these problems. Whether problems do occur and the nature of the problem depends on the type of female genital cutting and how it was performed. In addition, every woman and girl responds differently to difficult experiences.

Possible psychological consequences

Girls and women can also suffer from psychological problems as a result of female genital cutting. For instance, they may be disappointed that their parents failed to protect them. When girls who have been cut come to Switzerland, they compare themselves with girls who have not been cut and then begin to wonder why they were cut. The experience can trigger fears in many girls and women or make them sad.

Female genital cutting cannot be reversed, but the physical and psychological problems can be treated. Every girl and every woman has a right to such treatment.
If you have been cut, or if you are afraid that you are in danger of being cut, get help.

Dr. Kuhn, a gynaecologist from Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, explains the consequences of female genital cutting:

Where is female genital cutting practised?

Female genital cutting primarily affects girls and women in certain African countries. In countries like Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali and Djibouti, female genital cutting is still performed on large numbers of girls and women. However, female genital cutting also occurs in Asia, on the Arabian Peninsula and in Kurdish regions. Female genital cutting is practised in some Muslim countries, but not in all of them, as the example of Saudi Arabia makes clear.

Female genital cutting is furthermore on the decline in many countries. Current figures (for 2015/2016), for instance, show that the number of girls who have been cut are falling. In other words: there is a trend towards fewer girls being cut:

Country Older generation Younger generation
Eritrea 83% 78%
Sudan 87% 84%
Ethiopia 74% 62%
Egypt 87% 61%
Somalia 98% 97%

Source: Integra

Female genital cutting is prohibited by law in most African countries and in Switzerland. Find out about the legal situation.

Would you like to talk to someone about female genital cutting? Is genital cutting an issue for you personally? Contact us for information and advice.

You can find more information about the countries in which female genital cutting is practised on our subject-specific webpage.

Is female genital cutting against the law?

A person who practises female genital cutting is violating human rights, specifically including the right of women and girls to be protected from violence. States must protect girls and women from female genital cutting and to ensure that they receive help.
In Switzerland, the prohibition of female genital mutilation is set down in Article 124 of the Swiss Criminal Code. The law.

Punishment is not limited to the men and women who perform the actual cutting; parents or relatives who permit a girl to be subjected to female genital cutting are liable to punishment as well. Anyone who performs female genital cutting abroad, or enables it to be performed abroad, is also liable to punishment. Anyone who violates this law is liable to a prison sentence. This applies to all forms of genital cutting, including Type 1 (sometimes referred to as sunna). Parents are responsible for protecting their daughters. If they fail to meet this responsibility, the appropriate authorities, such as the child protection authorities, will be asked to intervene. Government authorities in Switzerland provide people affected by female genital cutting with advice and assistance, that is to say, medical, psychological and legal assistance.

Female genital cutting can constitute grounds for asylum in Switzerland, but only if the country of origin is unable to provide any protection against female genital cutting.

You can find out more about the prohibitions, rights and laws that apply in Switzerland and internationally and learn about the legal situation in the countries where female genital cutting is practised on our subject-specific webpage “Legal Basis”.

Statement by Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga: “Female genital cutting is prohibited in Switzerland.”

I have severe pains, especially when I am menstruating / i have my period. What can I do?

If you are experiencing pain you should see a gynaecologist who has experience in dealing with women who have been cut to talk about your situation. Depending on the way the genitals were cut, some women can undergo surgery to re-open their vaginas (defibulation). This procedure is funded by health insurance. Advice and information

I have been cut and I’m pregnant. Will this affect the birth of my child?

There are a number of midwives, gynaecologists and hospitals in Switzerland that are experienced in delivering babies of women who have been cut. There is no need to be afraid. Mention the genital cutting as early in your pregnancy as possible so that your health professionals are aware of it and can plan accordingly. Advice and information

I am not sure whether or not I have been cut or what that would mean...

There are many women who do not know whether or not they have been cut. When female genital cutting is performed in very early childhood, the women involved have no conscious memory of it. What’s more, female genital cutting is a taboo subject, so women cannot ask their mothers or other relatives about it. If you would like to ask about this, go and see a gynaecologist who specialises in the treatment of female genital cutting. Advice and information

I have been cut and have had some bad experiences with health professionals.

Girls and women who have been cut have a right to good healthcare. That means that healthcare practitioners are obliged to provide professional advice and treatment to women who have been cut. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Please contact us if you would like to talk about your experiences. Advice and information

I am married to a woman who has been cut. What does this mean?

The female genital cutting may affect the physical and/or psychological well-being of your wife. It is also possible that sexual activity is painful for her. There are services in Switzerland that specialise in providing advice on questions and problems like these. This service is free. Advice and information

I do not want my daughter to undergo female genital cutting. Where can I get help?

It is important that you, as mothers and fathers, take action to protect your daughters. We will support you in your efforts. Many dedicated women and men from countries like Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, who now live in Switzerland, have become activists, campaigning to prevent female genital cutting. Talks with parents can be arranged with the help of these peer educators. If you are interested in such a discussion, please contact the counsellors from Caritas Switzerland. Advice and information