Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Despite being internationally recognized as a human rights violation, FGM has been performed on more than 200 million girls and women alive today. The practice occurs in 30 countries across three continents, with half of those cut living in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.
Each year, more than 3 million girls worldwide are at risk of undergoing FGM, with most girls cut before the age of 15.
Numerous factors contribute to the prevalence of the practice. Yet in every society in which it occurs, FGM is a manifestation of entrenched gender inequality.
Some communities endorse it as a means of controlling girls’ sexuality or safeguarding their chastity. Others force girls to undergo FGM as a prerequisite for marriage or inheritance. Where the practice is most prevalent, societies often see it as a rite of passage for girls. FGM is not endorsed by Islam or Christianity, but religious narratives are commonly deployed to justify the practice.