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Female genital cutting: some information

In the News

Tahirih Justice Center Wins Key Immigration Case article

Keeping Focus on Fighting Genital Mutilation article

Mali, August 2009 Women's Rights Bill Blocked article

Global Consultation on FGM/C Report article examines immigration and asylum policies

FGM Asylum Cases Forge New Legal Standing article

The London Metropolitan Police is offering an unprecedented reward for information which would bring to justice anyone involved in female genital mutilation. article

A victim's story

For Kurdish Girls, a Painful Ancient Ritual (Washington Post)


Before the excision.

Female genital cutting—usually called "excision" in Mali, and sometimes referred to as "female circumcision" or "female genital mutilation"—is the surgical removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. Traditionally a rite of passage, it is now sometimes performed on girls as young as a few days old, but can also be performed on adult women. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone genital cutting, with at least 3 million females each year —8,000 each day—undergoing the procedure. It is currently practiced in at least 28 African countries, as well as in the Arabian Peninsula, among Moslem populations in Indonesia and Malaysia and among immigrant communities in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Exposing the human rights and health implications of female genital cutting

Children of mothers at fistula hospital.

Female genital cutting is both a human rights issue and a health issue, with vast implications for women. Amnesty International has been concerned with the human rights implications of FGC for more than 15 years. They have called it a "major challenge" which is "rooted in cultural traditions and systematic discrimination against women and girls." While women's groups and human rights organizations have long campaigned against genital cutting as a rights issue, a 2006 WHO study provides the first conclusive medical evidence of long-term physical harm, moving the debate further into the public health arena. The study found that "genital cutting raises by 50% the likelihood that the woman or infant will die [in childbirth]."

The health consequences of FGC can be both immediate and long-term. Short-term effects include pain, hemorrhage, urinary retention, infection and shock. Some of these can be life-threatening. The long-term consequences include scarring, pelvic infections, infertility, menstrual difficulties, sexual dysfunction, and problems in pregnancy and childbirth.

Anti-excision message.

Discussion of the practice of female genital cutting has always raised issues of cultural relativism and imperialism. Leading international women's and health organizations respond that freedom from this practice is a human right. A joint statement by WHO, UNICEF, and the UN Population Fund states: "It is unacceptable that the international community remains passive in the name of a distorted vision of multi-culturalism. . . . People will change their behavior when they understand the dangers and indignities of a harmful practice." Today, the fight to end female genital cutting is spearheaded by the United Nations and local and national African organizations. While 16 African countries have succeeded in criminalizing FGC, these laws are not often enforced and the practice persists. Activists working on this issue believe that aggressive education is the most effective way to end the practice. MRS. GOUNDO'S DAUGHTER will aid these awareness-raising efforts.

FGC in Mali

In Mali, many NGOs are devoted to the eradication of excision. Sixteen African countries have enacted laws criminalizing the practice and in Mali health activists are campaigning for such a law. Despite these efforts, it has been difficult to change attitudes toward a custom that has been practiced for thousands of years; today almost 85% of women and girls in Mali have been excised.

The excision walk
The post-excision ceremony walk.

To learn more about Female Genital Cutting, visit the following websites:


Forward UK

Tahirih Justice Center

World Health Organization

Waris Dirie Foundation

Feminist Majority Foundation

To learn more about immigration and asylum issues, visit the following websites:

Harvard Human Rights Journal (pdf)

Stanford Law Review (pdf)

Center for Gender and Refugee Studies

Women's Enews

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