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Female Genital Cutting: Distinguishing the Rights From the Health Agenda

Publication Abstract

Snow, Rachel C. 2001. "Female Genital Cutting: Distinguishing the Rights From the Health Agenda." Tropical Medicine & International Health, 6(2): 89-91.

It is estimated that 100130 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of cutting of their external genitalia, or female genital cutting (FGC). Genital cutting among females is an old practice referred to in pharaonic writings, and evidence suggests that it continues to be widespread in Africa and parts of the Middle East. Rationales for FGC vary by ethnic group and region, but generally highlight reducing female sexual responsiveness (and hence, promiscuity), and easing childbirth. The practice varies with regard to the age of circumcision, the types of social and religious rituals associated with cutting, and the actual form of cutting. In an effort to streamline descriptions of the practice, The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the predominant types of cutting as Type I: excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris; Type II: excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora; Type III: excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation) ( ). While these categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive and ambiguous cuts are noted, the categories are a helpful effort to bring uniformity to research on FGC.

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