Current Issues Female Genital Cutting

Submit an Issue

Summary of the Issue

Current Issues: Female Genital Cutting

Hargeisa, Somalia. 1996. Hudan, age 6, being held by her sister Farhyia, age 18, while undergoing female genital cutting. Photo Credit: Jean-Marc Bouju/AP Images.

Female genital cutting (“FGC”) is one of several terms used to describe the procedure in which all or part of a woman’s, or girl’s, external genitalia are cut and/or removed. Other terms which are used for this procedure are female genital mutilation (“FGM”) and clitoridectomy. We opt for FGC because we find it to be the most accurate and neutral term.

FGC is a practice that originated in some parts of Africa, primarily Egypt and Sudan. It is a cultural practice that dates back thousands of years – back to the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs – and was practiced long before the birth of Islam in the 7th century. In Egypt, it is practiced by Christians as well as Muslims 1. Although, especially in rural areas, FGC is often believed to be an Islamic practice, it has been condemned by Islamic scholars, denounced in fatwas, and rendered illegal by governmental statutes. If the purpose of FGC is to decrease or eliminate a woman’s sexual enjoyment and thus ensure chastity, then this goes against the principles of Islam, which does not allow monks or nuns and which considers sexual relations to be a healthy benefit of marriage. In fact, some Islamic jurists gave women the right to divorce if their husbands neglected conjugal relations for period of time 2.

Tribal customs and ancient cultural norms are very powerful and are often legitimized by characterization as “religious,” even when they are not. This practice continues in Egypt, though it has been outlawed.

WISE is working to eliminate this cultural practice by partnering with local NGOs to educate Muslims about how it is not an Islamic religious practice but a cultural one that is harmful to women and to society.

[1] Leila Ahmad, Women and Gender in Islam (Yale 1992), p.176.
[2] Azizah al-Hibri, “Introduction to Muslim Women’s Rights” in Windows of Faith: Muslim Women Scholar-Activists in North America, Gisela Webb (ed.), p. 70.

Related Current Issue


Access to Health Services

WISE Shura Council Statement on the Issue

WISE Shura Council FGC Digest Statement

WISE Shura Council FGC 2-Page Statement

Shura Council FGC Handout

Organizations Active on this Issue


Stop FGM in Kurdistan

Stop FGM

WISE Activism


Amirah's Voice

Interdisciplinary Research Group for Prevention and Study of Harmful Traditional Practices

Newspaper/Magazine Articles

Haje Keli: Combating female genital mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan

H’Rina DeTroy: Sudan’s Female Genital Mutilation Countered By Henna-Dyed Hands

Scholars Proscribe Abuse of the Female Body

Sara Corbett: A Cutting Tradition

Kenya: Doctors Asked to Stop FGM in Clinics

Rowena Davis: Daughters in Danger

Egypt makes first arrest over female circumcision

Jasmin Bauomy: Activists fight female circumcision

Islam United to Stop Female Genital Mutilation

Scholarly Articles

L. Newland, “Female circumcision: Muslim identities and zero tolerance policies in rural West Java” Department of Sociology and Social Work, Faculty of Arts and Law, University of the South Pacific, Fiji.  Available from: Science Direct.

Ab. Rahman Isa, Rashidah Shuib, M. Shukri Othman, “The Practice of Female Circumcision among Muslims in Kelantan, Malaysia” Reproductive Health Matters, 1999.

Relevant Books

Elizabeth Heger Boyle, “Female genital cutting: cultural context in the global community.”, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

P. Ilkkaracan, “Women and Sexuality in Muslim societies”, Women for Women’s Human Rights, 2000.


No to FGM: A Song from Kenya


Harvard Law School: Laws of the world on Female Genital Mutilation

WISE Women Active on Issue

Eman Fawzi

Djingarey Maiga

Binta Jammeh-Sidibe

Fatou Waggehi

Sophia Abdi Noori

Ayisha Jeffries