Female genital cutting (mutilation/circumcision): ethical and legal dimensions

International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics2002 Dec; 79(3):281-287

Female genital cutting (mutilation/circumcision): ethical and legal dimensions

Cook RJ, Dickens BM, Fathalla MF


The practice better described as female genital cutting (FGC) is of long standing in some communities, and has spread to non-traditional countries by immigration. It is of varying degrees of invasiveness, often including clitoridectomy, but all raise health-related concerns, which can be of considerable physical and/or psychological severity, and compromise gynecological and obstetric care. The practice is not based on a requirement of religious observance, although parents usually seek it for their daughters in good faith. It is directed to the social control of women’s sexuality, in association with preservation of virginity and family honor. FGC is becoming increasingly prohibited by law, in countries both of its traditional practice and of immigration. Medical practice prohibits FGC. In compromising women’s health and negating their sexuality, FGC is a human rights abuse that physicians have a role in eliminating by education of patients and communities.

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