Female genital cutting/mutilation (FGC/M) is the ritual removal of part or all of the vulva, practiced in several countries in Africa and a handful in the Middle East. It's considered a right of passage and necessary if a woman wants to be married. Places where it is practiced are characterized by extreme gender inequality, and if a woman is unable to marry, she has no value.
FGM/C is done based on the belief that women's purity and modesty can only be guaranteed through these types of procedures. The procedure is most often done by village elders with rudimentary tools in unhygienic conditions with no anesthetic. Because of this, it's very painful, and it can result in a variety of medical complications and problems, including infection and death.
The United Nations considers FGM/C a violation of human rights, and the World Health Organization, among other agencies, calls it "female genital mutilation," and warns of its impact on health and functioning. Many of the countries where FGM/C is practiced have made it illegal, but the law is rarely enforced.
Some have been critical of the West's approach to FGM/C, claiming that it's another example of cultural imperialism and ethnocentrism. I've posted about this before, with video clips of women talking about their experiences (link).
The recent article linked below provides a very good overview of FGM/C. It's a good, but quite critical, read if you're interested in finding out more.
From the World Economic Forum:
10 Things To Know About Female Genital Mutilation
“The time has come for us to eradicate this bad practice and protect the rights of girls and women in our country,” said Somalia’s minister for women’s affairs at a conference earlier this month. The bad practice she was referring to was female genital mutilation – procedures that intentionally alter or cause harm to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The World Health Organization categorizes the procedure into four types: they range from the partial or complete removal of the clitoris to a procedure where the genitalia is sewn closed (which over 60% of women in Somalia are forced to undergo).
Although, as a UNICEF survey found, many people draw on cultural, social and religious justifications for the practice, it has been recognized as a human rights violation since 1993. And yet still, 3 million girls and women are at risk every year. Here are 10 more facts about a practice almost all nations have committed to wiping out.
Read the rest here.