Intended for healthcare professionals


Concern mounts over female genital mutilation

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 29 July 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:262

An ancient cultural rite still blights the lives of millions of women. Judy Jones reports on opposition to a practice that is illegal in Britain but still continues

The UK crime writer Ruth Rendell and the consultant gynaecologist Harry Gordon at first seem to have little in common. Baroness Rendell is a distinguished writer and life peer; Mr Gordon is an experienced surgeon, living and practising in west London. But they both share an abhorrence of a 600 year old cultural rite which can not only induce agonising pain during urination or sex but also cause serious injury, infection, and death.

Female genital mutilation (commonly described as female circumcision) is performed across all ages—on tiny infants, young girls, teenagers, and women. Up to 140 million girls and women are estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to have undergone the procedure, and each year a further two million are thought to be at risk of it.

Most girls who undergo the ritual live in Africa and to a lesser extent in Asia and the Middle East. Increasingly, however, genital mutilation occurs among migrants from these countries who …

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