What is FGM/C?
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is “any partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other injury of the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”1 FGM/C is practiced predominantly in Africa and in some pockets of Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.2 In these countries, both traditional practitioners and birth attendants as well as professional health care providers perform the cutting.2,3 FGM/C is a cultural practice that predates the Abrahamic religions, although some proponents claim it is rooted in Islam.3 Girls who do not undergo mutilation/cutting can face community shaming and diminished marriage prospects.4 Different cultures use different words to describe the procedure.
Girls are cut anytime between birth and 15 years old.1 When girls are old enough to remember the cutting, it can leave devastating effects on their mental health. The procedure has been universally condemned by international human rights organizations because it severely harms the health of women and girls throughout their lifetime.1 FGM/C carries both short and long-term consequences, including severe pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic infections, and birth complications.5
Four types of FGM/C
The World Health Organization has classified FGM/C into four types. Typically, Types I through III involve a progressively greater level of genital cutting, while Type IV comprises a variety of practices that do not involve removal of tissue from the genitals.
Type 1: Clitoridectomy refers to the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce.
Type 2: Excision is when the clitoris and/or the labia minora are removed.
Type 3: Infibulation occurs when the vaginal opening is sealed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without the excision of the clitoris.
Type 4: All other damaging procedures done to female genitalia for nonmedical reasons (e.g., pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, cauterization)
Is performing FGM/C illegal in the United States?
It is a federal crime to transport a minor to a foreign country for FGM/C. As of January 5, 2021, a new federal bill, the STOP FGM Act of 2020 (HR 6100), was signed into law criminalizing the practice of FGM/C across the U.S.6,7 Majority of states also have more specific laws against FGM/C, with others like D.C. having proposed legislation in progress.8
Download this factsheet on FGM/C for your clinic or hospital team: FGM/C Factsheet