Definition of FGM/C



Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is an ancient practice that remains a deeply rooted tradition supported by a complexity of symbolic and cultural meanings. It is mainly practiced in 29 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East (Iraqi Kurdistan, Yemen) and Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia). Today, the local becomes global, migrants travel with their cultures, and the practice is widespread within the diaspora worldwide (Europe, United States of America, Canada, Australia, among others). FGM/C is mostly performed on baby girls and girls between the ages of 0 to 15 years, prior to the onset of menstruation. It can be occasionally performed to adult and married women. FGM/C is an extremely complex, sensitive and politicized topic that is difficult to be understood only through normative definitions, classifications and geographical delimitations.

FGM/C is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2016) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. UNICEF (2016) estimates that around 200 million women have undergone the practice and more than 63 million girls could have it performed by 2050. The practice is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, constituting an extreme form of discrimination against women.

WHO established 4 types of FGM/C in 1995, updated in 2007, with the latest classification reviewed on 2016 (as follows). Current estimates indicate that around 90% of FGM/C cases include types I or II and cases where girls’ genitals were “nicked” but no flesh removed (type IV). 10% are type III. The classification is exclusively biomedical, not taking into account a global health approach to the topic:

Type I: “Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris). In Islamic culture, this type is known as “Sunna” (“tradition”) and it is compared to male circumcision.

- Type Ia: Removal of the prepuce/clitoridal hood (circumcision)

- Type Ib: Removal of the clitoris with the prepuce (clitoridectomy) 

Type II: “Partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without excision of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva) It is also referred to as ‘excision’. 

- Type IIa: Removal of the labia minora only

- Type IIb: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora

- Type IIc: Partial or total removal of the clitoris, the labia minora, and the labia majora.

Type III: “Narrowing of the vaginal orifice by cutting and bringing together the labia minora and/or the labia majora to create a type of seal, with or without excision of the clitoris. In most instances, the cut edges of the labia are stitched together, which is referred to as ‘infibulation’. This type is sometimes referred to as ‘Pharaoinc’, and its name comes from the Latin word “infibulare” (“fasten with a clasp”). 

- Type IIIa: Removal and appositioning the labia minora with or without excision of the clitoris.

- Type IIIb: Removal and appositioning the labia majora with or without excision of the clitoris.

Type IV: “All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization”.