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Female Genital Mutilation

Susan Hagood Lee


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Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the ancient cultural practice of removing portions of a girl's genitalia. It occurs extensively in northern Africa on girls from infancy to puberty, with significant negative medical consequences. Many Muslims believe that it is a religious duty. The procedure reduces sexual desire and the patriarchal groups which practice FGM consider it necessary to maintain a girl's good reputation for marriage. Uncircumcised girls are believed to be unclean and promiscuous. In response to political pressure from African women's organizations, 14 countries have banned the procedure. Nonetheless, it continues to be practiced and has become increasingly medicalized. Grassroots change efforts working within cultural norms have been the most successful. The World Health Organization defined FGM in 1995 as follows: “Female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of female external genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons.” The practice is also known as female circumcision (FC) or female genital cutting (FGC). The term FGM is used by international agencies, led by the World Health Organization. Some see the term as culturally judgmental and prefer the terms used by practitioners, namely circumcision (English-speaking areas), excision (French-speaking areas), or ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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