Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Learn what FGM is, why it's illegal, and how to report it to the FBI.

What Is FGM? 

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as "cutting," "circumcision," or "purification," involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

The procedure can range from pricking, cutting, cauterizing, or scraping, removing the inner and outer labia, to sewing closed all or part of a female genitalia, leaving only a small opening for urination and menstruation.

FGM is present in 92 countries. It takes place among indigenous and/or diaspora communities in numerous countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, and North America.

FGM Is...

  • A human rights violation
  • A form of child abuse
  • Gender discrimination
  • Violence against women and girls

Who Is It Performed On? 

FGM is mainly performed on young girls between infancy and the age of 15. It's also occasionally performed just before marriage. Traditional practitioners or medical professionals can perform FGM.

Why Is It Performed? 

FGM is a cultural custom, not a religious tenet. Some community members believe FGM is religiously prescribed.

Communities that practice FGM often believe that FGM will ensure a girl’s proper upbringing, preserve family honor, and/or make a girl suitable for marriage. FGM is deeply ingrained in some cultures and is not isolated to one ethnic or religious group.

No Health Benefits—and Can Lead to Death

FGM has no health benefits and can result in severe physical and psychological damage.

Immediate complications can cause severe pain, bleeding, problems urinating, infections, or death. Long-term effects can cause urinary, vaginal, menstrual, and/or sexual issues, infections, increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths, and psychological problems.

FGM Is Illegal

U.S. federal law prohibits performing, attempting to perform, or conspiring to perform FGM on anyone under the age of 18, or transporting anyone under the age of 18, out of state or country, for the purpose of the FGM (18 U.S. Code § 116).

There's no exception for performing FGM as a matter of religion, custom, tradition, ritual, or standard practice.

The FBI is committed to protecting the rights of young women and children and bringing justice to those who violate them. Anyone found guilty of FGM faces up to 10 years in prison.

What to Report 

  • You or someone you know is at risk of or have undergone FGM, 
  • You have information about someone who is performing FGM in the U.S., or
  • You know of someone who may be at risk of FGM if taken outside the U.S.

How to Report

If You Have Questions or Need Resources, Call:

  • Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women’s Health Help Line: 1-800-994-9662
  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

Signs a Girl May Be at Risk of FGM: 

  • A relative or someone known as a "cutter" is visiting from abroad
  • A special occasion or ceremony takes place where a girl "becomes a woman" or is "prepared for marriage"
  • A female relative, like a mother, sister, or aunt, has undergone FGM
  • A family arranges vacation overseas or visits a family abroad during the summer
  • A girl has an unexpected or long absence from school
  • A girl struggles to keep up in school
  • A girl runs away, or plans to run away, from home

Indicators FGM May Have Already Occurred: 

  • Having difficulty walking, standing, or sitting
  • Spending longer in the bathroom or toilet
  • Complaining about pain between their legs
  • Appearing quiet, anxious or depressed
  • Acting differently after an absence from school or college
  • Reluctance to go to the doctors or have routine medical examinations
  • Talk of something somebody did to them that they aren't allowed to talk about
  • Asking for help, but not being explicit about the problem because they're scared or embarrassed

Resources in Additional Languages  

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