The 6th of February each year marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It is the day that statements are made by various non-government agencies and world bodies condemning this harmful practice that has no health benefits, and violates the human rights of girls and women. On this day the media release statements and updates regarding progress towards abandonment of FGM and the problems encountered working towards this goal.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 125 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM and more than 3 million girls are at risk of the procedure each year.
The leadership of the International Organisation of Physical Therapists in Women’s Health (IOPTWH) is strongly against FGM and this is reflected in the position paper presented to WCPT, unanimously endorsed by 108 member countries and then communicated to the WHO. Physical therapists treating women suffering the effects of FGM know the benefits of physical therapy but validated outcome measures and rigorous research are needed to verify such benefits.
A recent review article states that “key knowledge gaps remain for both the prevention of FGM and evidence-based care to optimise health outcomes for girls and women with genital mutilation”. The same article acknowledges that, in the postpartum context, perineal re-education (biofeedback and Kegel exercises) may improve urinary symptoms and dyspareunia. In addition the self-knowledge gained through such re-education may increase satisfaction with the appearance of the genitalia following delivery, mitigating any residual desire for re-infibulation. The review article suggests that further studies could evaluate the prevalence of long-term postpartum complications as well as the effectiveness of such treatments.
IOPTWH position statement against FGM