This NIJ Journal article provides an overview of female genital mutilation/cutting, its deep roots in cultural traditions and beliefs, and the grave risks it poses to physical and mental health.
Each year, millions of girls around the world are at risk of undergoing the potentially dangerous procedure of having their genitalia partially or totally removed, often against their will. The practice, known as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), is internationally recognized as a serious violation of human rights and a form of gender-based violence and child abuse. Although it is illegal in 51 countries, including the United States, as many as half a million girls and women in this country could have suffered or are at risk of suffering FGM/C. This NIJ Journal article provides an overview of the practice, its deep roots in cultural traditions and beliefs, and the grave risks it poses to physical and mental health. The prevalence of FGM/C is difficult to track globally and in the United States, making it a challenge for both the health care and justice systems to identify and serve the women and girls who have experienced FGM/C as well as those at risk. The article points to multisector approaches — involving collaboration between health providers, educators, social services, and law enforcement — as the most effective way to address an issue as complex as FGM/C.