If We Are To Eliminate FGM/C, We Must Understand What It Is.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

The WHO has classified FGM/C into several categories, the most commonly described are:

Type I: Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris or the clitoral hood.

Type II: Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora

Type III: Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris

Type IV: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes (such as: nicking, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping or cauterizing).

FGM/C is considered to be child abuse and a human rights violation. It is a product of pervasive social injustices and harmful gender norms and, despite common belief, is not rooted in any religious or theological tradition. This practice has no health benefits, as it involves the removal of part or all of healthy and normal female genitalia, and is most often carried out on girls between infancy and age 15, though adult women are also at risk. FGM/C has both immediate, as well as life-long health and psychological consequences.


There are many terms used, including female genital mutilation (FGM); female genital cutting (FGC), female circumcision, excision,  as well as various terms in different languages that translate to “religious obligation/tradition”, “purification” , “ritual cleanliness”, “right of passage”, “sewing up”, among others.

The terminology used by the Network is the one used by the US government: “FGM/C” and is intended to be inclusive of the various acronyms and terms referencing the practice.