Female genital cutting (FGC), sometimes called female genital mutilation, is a cultural practice that involves cutting – or sometimes entirely removing – female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It usually happens to girls between infancy and age 15.
FGC is common in western, eastern, and northeastern Africa and some parts of Asia and the Middle East. Some immigrant communities in Europe, North America, and Australia also practice FGC.
How much genitalia is cut depends on local custom. In some cases, the clitoris is partially or totally removed. The prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris), labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), and labia majora (the outer folds) may be removed as well. Some girls have their vaginas narrowed or stitched almost completely shut, except for small openings for urine and menstrual blood.
The World Health Organization estimates that 140 million girls and women around the world have undergone FGC.
Like many health organizations, the ISSM does not support female genital cutting. For more information, please see this ISSM public policy statement.