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
Types of FGM/C
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)
Prevalence of FGM/C
What is the U.S. law on FGM/C?
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
A survivor of FGM/C is not at fault and has not violated any U.S. laws.
If you or someone you know is feeling pressured by your community to have FGM/C, please reach out to a health care provider or call the Childhelp National Child Abuse hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) for child protective services agencies. You can also contact the Office of Women’s Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) helpline at 1-800-994-9662.
Refer to our information factsheet for a general overview of FGM/C in the U.S. FGM/C Factsheet