What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Updated: May 22, 2019


Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a broad term that encompasses many different procedures that involve injury to or excision of the female reproductive organs that do not provide any health benefits. FGM is generally concentrated in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It is estimated that 200 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM in 30 countries. ("Facts Sheet")

Internationally, FGM has been recognized as a violation of the human rights of women and young girls. Due to the young age some girls are mutilated at, FGM is performed without consent. This is a distinct extreme form of discrimination of women and the inequality between men and women in the regions where this is performed.

One belief in performing these procedures is that it can help insure young girls do not engage in premarital sexual intercourse or extramarital intercourse. ('Fact Sheet")

Who is at risk?

FGM is most prevalent among young girls ages from infancy to 15 years old.

Women living in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia are at risk for having these procedures. (“Trends in FGM in Countries Where The Practice is Concentrated”) In most countries, young girls have these procedures done before they are 9 years old . This map shows by percentage the amount of the female population ages 15-49 years old that have undergone FGM (“Prevalence of FGM”).


There are four major categories of FGM that can then be broken down into more specific subgroups. Most FGM procedures are either Type I, II, or IV with an estimated 10% being Type III ("Fact Sheet").

Type I:

  • “Often referred to as clitoridectomy, this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris”, in some cases only the hood is removed without the clitoris.”

  • This can be divided into subcategories Ia and Ib:

  • Type Ia includes only the removal of the clitoral hood

  • Type Ib includes the removal of the clitoral hood and the clitoris

Type II:

  • “Often referred to as excision, this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without excision of the labia majora (the outer folds of the skin of the vulva).”

  • This can be divided into subcategories IIa, IIb, and IIc:

  • Type IIa includes the removal of only the labia minora

  • Type IIb includes clitoridectomy and the labia minora

  • Type IIc includes clitoridectomy, the labia minora, and the labia majora

Type III:

  • “Often referred to as infibulation, this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy)”

  • This can be divided into the subcategories IIIa and IIIb:

  • Type IIIa includes the removal and repositioning of the labia minora

  • Type IIIb includes the removal and repositioning of the labia majora

Type IV:

  • “All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.”

(“Fact Sheet”; “Classification of Female Genital Mutilation”)

International Responses

These procedures are generally performed by traditional circumcisers; because it is thought to be safer, FGM is performed by health professionals in many cases. The World Health Organization is discouraging health professionals from performing these procedures because it legitimizes them as acceptable (“Fact Sheet”; “Trends in FGM in Countries Where the Practice is Concentrated”).

“In 1997, WHO issued a joint statement against the practice of FGM together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).” (“Fact Sheet”). Through growing political support for the eradication of FGM, there is now legislation against this practice in 26 African and Middle Eastern. There is also legislation in countries that have migrants from countries that have a concentration of FGM (“Fact Sheet”).

Jewelz Lopez

Caldwell University

27 February 2017


Work Cited

  1. “Female genital mutilation - Fact sheet” World Health Organization, Feb. 2017, http://who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

  2. “Female genital mutilation - Trends in FGM in countries where the practice is concentrated” World Health Organization, N.D, http://who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/fgm_trends/en/

  3. “Female genital mutilation - Prevalence of FGM” World Health Organization, N.D., http://who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/prevalence/en/

  4. “Classification of female genital mutilation” World Health Organization, N.D.,http://who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/overview/en/

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