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Gynecologists negative to reconstructive surgery after female genital cutting

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Gynecologists negative to reconstructive surgery after female genital cutting

“Gynecologists in Sweden are a very polarized group regarding clitoral reconstruction, and our study is one of very few on the subject,” says Malin Jordal, researcher and senior lecturer in caring sciences at University of Gävle.

The researchers, who used in-depth interviews, found that some gynecologists had a very negative attitude towards clitoral reconstruction after female genital cutting. In Sweden, surgery and care have been focused on infibulated women, that is when women have been sewn closed, which in turn means that they have to be opened up to give birth or to have sex.

Malin Jordal

“Sexuality and sexual health have not been targeted much and we would like to highlight those issues now,” Malin Jordal says.

Who is the expert?

The eight gynecologists who participated in the study do not perform clitoral reconstruction but perform other surgeries and are used to working with cut women.

Malin Jordal found that some gynecologists held the view that female genital cutting does not affect sexual health very much. Other were more skeptical to the idea that clitoral reconstruction can potentially improve sexual health. Instead, they saw this as a psychological problem that can be solved in therapeutic conversations. Their view is that these women have been affected by a discourse that positions them as mutilated. As a consequence, they see themselves as victims and that causes their problems.

“Here, the gynecologist becomes the expert, and the women’s feelings and views don’t matter much.”

Few want to address the issue

“Few want to address the issue as it is sensitive,” Malin Jordal says. “And the last thing I want to do is to stigmatize these women and make them into victims. Interviews with women looking to perform reconstructive surgery show that they strive to leave such a victim identity behind. They want to stop seeing themselves as victims and surgery becomes a way to rise up.”

Malin Jordal says that she wants these women’s voices to be heard and her aim is to provide them with enough knowledge so that they can take an informed decision; some women experience an improvement after surgery, at least in some areas, while others do not.

“Women who have been cut want reconstructive surgery not only to improve their sexual health, but to feel better about themselves and to look more normal. Reconstructive surgery after cancer to help women feel whole again is a given. To me, it is self-evident that these women should be offered surgery as well.”

However, this does not mean that all women looking to have reconstructive surgery see themselves as victims. Many women in Sweden live with female genital cutting today, and very few of them would even consider reconstructive surgery.

“I don’t want more women to feel that this is something that they need to go through. That is absolutely not what I aim for,” Malin Jordal concludes.

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Scientific article
Researcher presentation Malin Jordal

In a new research project, Malin Jordal has interviewed 18 women who have undergone reconstructive surgery and many of them now state that their sexual health has improved.

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Contact:

Malin Jordal, researcher and senior lecturer in caring sciences at University of Gävle
Phone: 073-859 33 73
E-mail: Malin.Jordal@hig.se

Text: Douglas Öhrbom
Photo Malin Jordal: Private
Photo operating theatre: Jeppe Gustafsson / TT

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Education and Research at a Scenic Campus.
The University of Gävle has approximately 17 000 students, more than 50 study programmes and second-cycle programmes, about 1 000 courses in humanities, social and natural sciences and technology.

Research Profiles
Built Environment and Health-promoting Working Life are the general research profiles of the higher education institution. Important parts included are Spatial Planning with a specialisation in Sustainable Built Environment and Musculoskeletal Disorders with the purpose to prevent work-related injuries. In 2010, the higher education institution received permission to carry out third-cycle programmes in the profile area of Built Environment.
The higher education institution has applied for permission to carry out third-cycle programmes in technology, humanities and social sciences.

University of Gävle

Education and Research at a Scenic Campus.
The University of Gävle has approximately 17 000 students, more than 50 study programmes and second-cycle programmes, about 1 000 courses in humanities, social and natural sciences and technology.

Research Profiles
Built Environment and Health-promoting Working Life are the general research profiles of the higher education institution. Important parts included are Spatial Planning with a specialisation in Sustainable Built Environment and Musculoskeletal Disorders with the purpose to prevent work-related injuries. In 2010, the higher education institution received permission to carry out third-cycle programmes in the profile area of Built Environment.
The higher education institution has applied for permission to carry out third-cycle programmes in technology, humanities and social sciences.


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Earlier than the more traditional universities and higher education institutions, we have adapted the programmes to the demands of the market and dared to try new types of teaching e g different forms of distance education. Today, Högskolan i Gävle is one of Sweden's leading higher education institutions when it comes to distance education. Certain distance educations have meetings on one of the campus sites, others are based on modern IT support only and are therefore independent on which city you are in. The wide range of distance courses enables students to live in the home town and still carry out academic studies.


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Our campuses at Kungsbäck in Gävle offer a lovely study environment with all programmes gathered in one place. A place of knowledge only a few minutes from the centre.


The higher education institution is located in a scenic area with Gävle River and the Boulogner Forest as the closest neighbours. The carefully re-built regiment barracks have created a gathered campus where the distance between students, teachers and researchers is close.


A higher education institution with regional connections and a contact network reaching all over the world.

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