All procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Additional notes and information

The terminology used for this procedure has undergone various changes. During the first years in which the practice was discussed outside practising groups, it was generally referred to as "female circumcision". This term, however, draws a parallel with male circumcision and, as a result, creates confusion between these two distinct practices.

The expression "female genital mutilation" gained growing support from the late 1970s. The word mutilation establishes a clear linguistic distinction from male circumcision, and emphasizes the gravity and harm of the act. Use of the word "mutilation" reinforces the fact that the practice is a violation of girls’ and women’s rights, and thereby helps to promote national and international advocacy for its abandonment.

In 1990, this term was adopted at the third conference of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

From the late 1990s the terms "female genital cutting" and "female genital mutilation/cutting" were increasingly used. The preference for this term was partly due to dissatisfaction with the negative association attached to the term "mutilation", and some evidence that the use of that word was estranging practising communities and perhaps hindering the process of social change for the elimination of female genital mutilation.

Source: World Health Organization – WHO (2008). Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement – UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCHR, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WHO.


World Health Organisation (WHO) (2018) Female Genital Mutilation Factsheet.