Information & Resources
What is Female Genital Cutting, or FGC (also referred to as female genital mutilation or FGM)?
FGM, often referred to as 'female circumcision', comprises of all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.
– World Health Organization
Female genital mutilation/cutting is typically performed on very young girls and is practiced for a number of reasons:
- Psychosexual: to attenuate sexual desire in the female, maintain chastity and virginity before marriage and fidelity during marriage, and increase male sexual pleasure;
- Sociological: for identification with the cultural heritage, initiation of girls into womanhood, social integration and maintenance of social cohesion;
- Hygiene and Aesthetic: among some societies, the external female genitalia are considered unclean and unsightly, and so are removed to promote hygiene and provide aesthetic appeal;
- Religious: female genital mutilation/cutting is practised in a number of communities, under the mistaken belief that it is demanded by certain religions;
- Other: to enhance fertility and promote child survival.
For information and resources related to FGC, click on the links below
Female Genital Cutting
The National Women’s Health Information Center (NWHIC)
Frequently Asked Questions on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
United Nations Population Fund
Female Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet
World Health Organization (WHO)
Health Topic – Female Genital Mutilation
World Health Organization (WHO)
Changing A Harmful Social Convention: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (PDF, 831K)
2005 United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Report
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Statistical Exploration 2005 (PDF, 1.3M)
2005 UNICEF Report
In order to best care for and understand the practice of FGC it is necessary to learn about the cultural and traditional meanings the practice for various immigrant populations.
For a contextual overview of immigrant women including information on FGC see:
Taking Account of Gender (PDF, 399 K)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The following booklets, published by the Center for Applied Linguistics, are a basic introduction to the people, history, and cultures of the Somali and Somali Bantu populations. They are primarily designed for service providers and others assisting refugess in their new communities in the United States.
The Somalis: Their History and Culture
Authors: Dr. Diana Briton Putman and Dr. Mahamood Cabdi Noor
The Somali Bantu: Their History and Culture (PDF, 289K)
Authors: Dan Van Lehman and Omar Eno
Visit our Projects page for information on our current research with these communities.
The health consequences of FGC may include uncontrollable bleeding, chronic urinary infections, difficulty urinating and discharging menstrual blood, and increased risk of acquiring sexually-transmitted diseases. FGC can cause significant psychosocial and medical problems as infibulated girls and women sometimes develop fistulas that interconnect the vaginal and anal passages. Infibulated women often experience difficult child birth. Additionally, there may be negative psychological and emotional consequences associated with FGC.
For more information about the health consequences of FGC, see:Caring for Somali Women Implications for clinician 2007
Female Genital Mutilation – The Facts
Compiled by Laura Reymond, Asha Mohamud, and Nancy Ali. Funding provided by the Wallace Global Fund.
Ending Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
United States federal law prohibits anyone in the U.S. knowingly circumcising, excising or infibulating the genitals of any child under 18 years of age.
See full text of the federal law.
It is not illegal for a woman or girl whose genitals have been cut to enter the United States. It is not illegal for someone who has performed FGC to enter the United States.
Changes to U.S. Law Threaten Refugees
Author: Sarah Paoletti
FGM is a social custom, not a religious practice. However, in Muslim countries where it is practiced, FGM is often justified by a controversial saying attributed to the Prophet Mohammed that seems to favor sunna circumcision. The authenticity of these sayings is unconfirmed, and some scholars have refuted them. Even if true, they only permit the practice; they do not mandate it. – ReligiousTolerance.org
For more information on FGC and religion:
Debates about FGM in Africa, the Middle East & Far East
Female Genital Mutilation: An Islamic Perspective
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D, Minaret of Freedom Institute
The World Health Organization provides publications and additional resources regarding FGC, including these training materials.
Female Circumcision/Female Genital Mutilation: Clinical Management of Circumcised Women
A kit designed for use as a formal presentation in undergraduate medical education and obstetrics and gynecology residency programs, available for purchase at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Bookstore.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Examples of article content you will find at IRIN include:
- ERITREA : Government outlaws female genital mutilation
14 February 2007
- WEST AFRICA : Communities choose health over tradition
- Razor's Edge - The Controversy of Female Genital Mutilation
The following organizations are working to increase awareness of FGC and/or end its practice.
1996 – Congress passed the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act
It declares that female circumcision "infringes upon the guarantees of rights secured by federal and state law, both statutory and constitutional" and that "the unique practices surrounding the practice of female genital mutilation place it beyond the ability of any single state or local jurisdiction to control." It further states that prohibiting female circumcision does not infringe upon the first amendment guarantees of religious freedom. (Public Law 104-208, sec 645 (a)(3-5))
October 28, 2006 First Female Circumcision Trial in US A father in the Atlanta-area was accused to have circumcised his daughter sometime in 2001 when the girl was 2. An immigrant from Ethiopia, where the practice is viewed as preparation for marriage, reports state he performed the procedure to preserve her virginity. Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now, an international human rights group, said more than 90 percent of women in Ethiopia are believed to have been subjected to the practice. On November 1, 2006 he was found guilty on charges of cruelty to a child and aggravated battery to serve 10 years in prison and 5 years probation.