Female Genital Cutting (FGC): An Introduction
by Marianne Sarkis
As you are reading this article, there are between eight and ten million women and girls in the Middle East and in Africa who are at risk of undergoing one form or another of genital cutting. In the United States it is estimated that about ten thousand girls are at risk of this practice. FGC in a variety of its forms is practiced in Middle Eastern countries (the two Yemens, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Southern Algeria). In Africa it is practiced in the majority of the continent including Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mozambique, and Sudan.
Even though FGC is practiced in mostly Islamic countries, it is not an Islamic practice. FGC is a cross-cultural and cross-religious ritual. In Africa and the Middle East it is performed by Muslims, Coptic Christians, members of various indigenous groups, Protestants, and Catholics, to name a few.
FGC is a term used to refer to any practice which includes the removal or the alteration of the female genitalia. There are three main types of FGC that are practiced through the world : Type I or Sunna circumcision, Type II or excision, and Type III or infibulation. These three operation range in intensity, from the "mildness" of Type I, to the extreme Type III. Type II is a recent addition to FGC. I will explain in the next sections what each of these practices involve, and outline some of the short-term and long-term effects that they have.
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