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
This video from Global Citizen provides an overview of FGM/C around the world, including the prevalence of FGM/C, health impacts for survivors of FGM/C, and reasons that FGM/C may occur. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that over 500,000 women in the U.S. have experienced or are at risk of undergoing FGM/C.8
It is a federal crime to transport a minor to a foreign country for FGM/C, also known as "vacation cutting."9 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.10,11 Majority of states also have more specific laws against FGM/C, with others like D.C. having proposed legislation in progress.12 A survivor of FGM/C is not at fault and has not violated any U.S. laws.
Please refer to our factsheet for an overview of FGM/C in the U.S and around the world: