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Female genital mutilation and public health: lessons from the British experience

Health Care for Women International. 1998 19(2) 119-129

Female genital mutilation and public health: lessons from the British experience

Elizabeth Thompson Ortiz


The author addresses the public health policy challenge posed by the increasing numbers of immigrant girls and women in the United States affected by female genital mutilation (FGM), a traditional ritual health practice in which part or all of the external genital structures are removed from females, usually during childhood. The practice is common today in 26 African nations and affects 100 to 126 million women and girls worldwide. The significant lifelong negative health impact of FGM has been documented. Recent developments in British domestic health and social policy are reviewed to provide insights. The definition of FGM, prevalence, health impact, and history of the practice are presented. Implications for the development of health and social services policies and programs in the United States are drawn.

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