A new study calls for an end to this horrible practice that puts young girls women and their babies at risk. The World Health Organization-sponsored study on Female Genital Mutilation [FGM] deplores the “medicalization” (when done by trained physicians) of this ritual.

Amnesty International estimates that 135 million women and girls worldwide have been subjected one of three levels of genital mutilation. It is practiced in at least 28 countries in Africa; in Egypt, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and North Africa; and by some Muslims in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. But it has also been reported in industrialized countries like Britain and the United States primarily among immigrants from countries where it is still common practice.

Sexual, sociological, hygienic, health and religious reasons are cited commonly. Still it harms women physically and emotionally and places them at increased risk of complications during childbirth.

Unicef estimates that more than two million girls are at risk each year of having their genitals cut or mutilated. (WHO calls it “FGM,” but Unicef calls it “FGM/C” to include cutting.) WHO defines three levels of genital mutilation:

  • Type I (FGM 1) – excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris
  • Type II (FGM II) – excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora;
  • Type III (FGM III) – excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation).

The study appears in the June issue of The Lancet.