Genital cutting

What is it?

Also called genital mutilation or female circumcision, female genital cutting is a cultural practice that can range from removing part of the clitoris to cutting off all external genitalia and stitching the vaginal opening almost shut. The World Health Organization and others consider it a human rights violation.

Why is it done?

Various reasons, including a belief it ensures girls will remain chaste and be able to find suitable husbands. Unlike male circumcision, female cutting has no known health benefits.

Where is it done?

Primarily in 28 countries in Africa and parts of the Middle East, in Muslim and Christian communities.

When is it done?

Usually before puberty, but it can be performed any time between shortly after birth to just before marriage.

What are the health risks?

In the short term, bleeding, pain and infection. In the long-term: pain during sexual intercourse, urinary tract and vaginal infections, complications during labor.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, UNICEF