Sexual health counselling targeting girls and young women with female genital cutting in Sweden

This study explores the problems of how to counsel and teach about female genital cutting (FGC) while having a difficult dual role – working to prevent future occurrence of the practice while simultaneously encouraging and empowering those for whom it has already been done without undermining body image or sense of sexual capacity.

Research question: How do professionals reflect upon and talk about sexuality and the promotion of sexual wellbeing in young circumcised women and girls? The key question was “How are dominant ideas about FGC [female genital cutting] and sexuality played out in practice, and how do professionals handle potential tensions from conflicting conceptualisations of bodies, sexuality, and FGC in encounters with girls and young women with FGC?”.

Results: Based on focus groups and semi-structured interviews with a total of 20 professionals from social care, health care and health educators, they found that a key problem is the over-reliance on medical models of sexuality that focus on the body, perhaps under-emphasizing the role of the mind, emotions, and other aspects of mental well-being such as the socio-cultural environment. The study shows the struggles the interviewed professionals are having to find a good balance between their desire to be compassionate and helpful and their lack of clear understandings of the facts of sexual issues the cut young women might face.


  • Professionals should take into consideration both physical and emotional/cultural/psychological aspects of sexual issues in their sexual health counselling
  • Professionals can promote sexual wellbeing in young women by informing also about the possibilities of their sexual capacity after FGC including provide positive examples of how sex can be pleasurable also after FGC


Palm C., Essén B., Johnsdotter S. (2019). Sexual health counselling targeting girls and young women with female genital cutting in Sweden: mind–body dualism affecting social and health care professionals’ perspectives. Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 27:1