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 The practice of FGM/C is not limited to a few regions in the world. As of January 2020, evidence of FGM/C was found globally in at least 92 countries.2,3 Both traditional practitioners and birth attendants as well as professional health care providers perform the cutting.4,5 FGM/C is a practice that predates Abrahamic religions and is not rooted in any one religion despite common beliefs that it is.5 Girls who do not undergo mutilation/cutting can face community shaming and diminished marriage prospects.6 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.7
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)
Download our informational factsheet for a general overview of FGM/C in the U.S.