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Religious Tolerance logo

Controversial religious topics


About Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
a.k.a. (FGM/C)

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Various terms have been used to refer to this procedure:
female genital mutilation, female genital mutilation/cutting,
female circumcision, female genital cutting, FGM, FGM/C, & cutting.

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This section is translated into Polish at:,
into Spanish at:,
into Belorussian at:,
and into Ukrainian at:

What It Is:

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is an invasive and painful surgical procedure that is often performed without anesthetic by persons without medical training on girls before puberty. Various sources estimate that from about 60 to 140 million women in the world have had their genitals mutilated or cut. An average of about four girls a minute continued to be mutilated as of 1998. Their clitoral prepuce is often removed and their clitoris may be partially or completely removed.

In some traditions the operation is far more invasive: the labia minora are also surgically removed and the labia majora are sewn together, covering the urethra and vagina. A small opening is retained for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid. IndyMedia Ireland has published a diagram showing various FGM/C techniques. 1 The result of the operation is that sexual feelings are either reduced or permanently eliminated. Sexual intercourse is often extremely painful for the woman. Childbirth often requires a Caesarian section.

The practice has been condemned by the United Nations as a human rights violation 6 and is in decline across the world.

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FGM/C has been a social custom in Northern Africa for millennia. Many people associate FGM/C with the religion of Islam. Actually, it is a custom practiced by Animists, Christians, and Muslims in those countries where FGM/C is common. It was also practiced among Ethiopian Jews, although this is currently rare. 5,6 There are many Muslim countries in which the mutilation is esentially unknown, including Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. 2

FGM/C is very widespread in Indonesia as well -- the world's largest predominately Muslim country. It was banned by the Indonesian Government in 2006, However the procedure is unregulated and remains common, particularly in rural areas. The techniques used appear to be minimally invasive in that country. 3

During 2007, FGM was banned in Eritrea. At the time, the Egyptian Health Ministry was also seeking a law banning FGM in that country. That left Somolia, which lacks a central government, Sudan, and Indonesia as the main countries where the practice remained legal.

In late 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution to Ban FGM worldwide. According to No Peace without Justice, Resolution A/RES/67/146

"... was cosponsored by two thirds of the General Assembly, including the entire African Group, and was adopted by consensus by all UN members. The resolution, which was hailed by the Ban FGM Campaign, reflects universal agreement that female genital mutilation constitutes a violation of human rights, which all countries of the world should address through 'all necessary measures, including enacting and enforcing legislation to prohibit FGM and to protect women and girls from this form of violence, and to end impunity'." 4

FGM/C is occasionally performed in North America and Europe on girls of families have immigrated from countries where FGM/C is common and have temporarily returned to their country of origin to have the operation performed.

An analogous practice, Intersexual Genital Mutilation, (IGM) is sometimes performed on intersexual infants throughout the world. These are babies who are born with ambiguous genitalia that do not clearly match the typical male or female pattern. 2 They typically have genital elements that are normally found in both sexes. This occurs once in every 1,500 to 2000 births. Since it is much easier for surgeons to remove rather than fabricate body parts, intersexual infants were often surgically treated to make them appear female. The infant was then raised as a girl. This has led to disastrous outcomes after puberty, including serious depression and even suicide. IGM is being strongly opposed by activist groups and its incidence is declining.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet FGM/C in Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, and parts of Asia:



bullet Debate over FGM/C


FGM/C in Egypt:

bullet Additional information: books & Internet sites

bullet FGM/C in North America and Europe

bullet FGM/C in the UK
bullet IGM in North America and Europe

bullet Further information:

bullet Books and reports on FGM/C

bullet Links to FGM/C web sites

See a news feed on women's issues. It shows 20 current news items, and is updated every 15 minutes.

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Reference used:

  1. "Egypt formally bans Female Circumcision," IndyMedia Ireland, 2007-JUN-28, at: That web site states: "If diagrams of female genitals (with or without clitoris) offend you don't look at this image." However, they located the warning under the diagrams.
  2. "Training Kit: Prevention and Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation among Immigrants in Europe," African Women's Organisation, (2005), Page 13.
  3. "INDONESIA: Female genital mutilation persists despite ban," Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), 2010-SEP-02, at:
  4. "UN General Assembly Adopts Worldwide Ban on Female Genital Mutilation," No Peace Without Justice, 2012-DEC-20, at:
  5. Michele Henry & Jayme Poisson, "Women in Ismaili Muslim sect say they have had FGM in Canada," Toronto Star, 2017-AUG-21, at:
  6. Harinder Baweja, "India's Dark Secret," Hindustan Times, undated, at:

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Copyright © 1998 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1998-MAR-13

Last updated 2019-NOV-07
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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