What's the difference between FGC, female circumcision, and FGM?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

All three terms describe the procedure that cuts away part or all of the external female genitalia. Deciding what exactly to call it is still being debated. Some people fear that parents may resent the implication that they are "mutilating" their daughters by participating in this largely cultural event, and so reject the term FGM in favor of FGC. Some people point out that the word "cutting" is less judgmental and relates better to terms used in many local languages. However, many women's health and human rights organizations use the word "mutilation" not only to describe the practice, but also to point out the violation of women's human rights.

Previously, some referred to the practice as "circumcision" to link FGC to male circumcision. However, this word can hide the serious physical and psychological effects of cutting women's genitals. It also fails to show differences between the different types of cutting. For these reasons, a number of international organizations offer a compromise: "female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C)."

This answer is based on source information from The National Women's Health Information Center.

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