More than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, or cutting (FGM/C). FGM/C refers to cutting and other procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
FGM/C exists as a cultural practice that is carried out with disturbing regularity. The average age of victims ranges from less than five years to 18 years, but the practice may vary drastically among communities – from the severity of the cutting, to where FGM/C is performed (in a home, medical office, or hut), to why it is performed (for marriageability, religion, or misconceptions about health). The common thread among practicing communities is that it is cultural, passed down through the generations and part of the community identity.
Unfortunately, parents or other family members are often involved, although many female family members may be victims themselves.
While primarily concentrated in north, west, and central Africa, as well as parts of the Middle East and Asia, FGM/C also occurs in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 500,000 women and girls in the United States are either victims of FGM/C, or are at risk of being subjected to it.