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Community Health: Education, Prevention and Inspiration

Empowering people to make healthy, respectful and responsible choices.

Female Genital Modification

Posted by Tammi A. Tannura -

Female genital modification, sometimes called female circumcision or female genital mutilation, is the removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The vulva, another term for external female genitalia, includes the labia majora, the labia minora, the clitoris and the openings for the urethra and the vagina. Young girls who originate from African countries in the east, west and central part of the continent are most likely to undergo the procedure. The age at which a young girl is modified ranges from birth to just before marriage.

Most people in the United States feel that female genital modification is cruel and barbaric torture for girls who must live through it. Others say that their religion demands the procedure, yet there is no religion that dictates or supports the practice of female genital modification. Still others defend the practice of female genital modification to maintain tradition and culture.

Some of the cultural beliefs about female genital modification include:

  • It is a necessary procedure for the purposes of raising a girl properly.
  • It must be done to beautify the genitals.
  • It is a rite of passage.
  • The procedure is preparation for adulthood and marriage.
  • It reduces sex drive and discourages premarital sexual relations.
  • The procedure eases the pain of childbirth.
  • Sexual pleasure is enhanced for a male sexual partner.
  • It feminizes the girl and cures hysteria.

The degree of cutting can range from the snipping of tissue above the clitoris called the clitoral hood to the removal of all of the external genitalia including the clitoris, labia majora and labia minora. The practice of female genital modification is often done in unsanitary environments and with rudimentary tools such as sharp stones or teeth, broken glass or dull razors. Sometimes, the external genitalia are removed with corrosives. The rate of infection with a procedure in unsanitary conditions is very high.


Ausherman,J.A., Welsheimer,K.J and Black, J.M. (1999). Female genital mutilation: What health educators should know. Retrieved on October 1, 2013 from

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