What is female genital cutting (FGC)?
Female genital cutting (FGC) is the collective name given to traditional practices that involve the partial or total cutting away of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genitals, whether for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons. Historically, it has been also called “female genital mutilation” or “female circumcision.”
When is FGC carried out?
The age at which FGC is performed on women and girls varies. It may be performed during infancy, childhood, marriage or during a first pregnancy. FGC is typically performed on young girls who are between 4 and 12 years old, however, by a medically untrained person-often an older woman-from the local culture or community. Increasingly FGC is also performed by trained health personnel, including physicians, nurses and midwives.
Where is FGC practiced?
FGC is practiced predominantly in 28 countries in Africa. Eighteen African countries have prevalence rates of 50 percent or higher, but these estimates vary from country to country and within various ethnic groups. FGC also occurs in some Middle Eastern countries-Egypt, the Republic of Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Israel-and is found in some Muslim groups in Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and India. Some immigrants practice various forms of FGC in other parts of the world, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and in European nations.
How many women and girls in the world have been affected by FGC? In the United States?
It is estimated that 130 million girls and women have undergone FGC.1,2,3 Approximately 2 million are subjected to this practice each year worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 168,000 women and girls in the United States had either undergone FGC or were at risk for FGC in 1990. Of these, 48,000 were girls younger than 18 years old.
Where and when did FGC originate?
Practices involving the cutting of female genitals have been found throughout history in many cultures, but there is no definitive evidence documenting when or why this ritual began. Some theories suggest that FGC might have been practiced in ancient Egypt as a sign of distinction, while others hypothesize origins in ancient Greece, Rome, pre-Islamic Arabia and Tsarist Russia. Up until the mid-20th century, some physicians in the United States wrongly performed clitoridectomies for a variety of clinically unsound reasons.
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