Intended for healthcare professionals


Female genital mutilation

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 02 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2728
  1. Susan Bewley, consultant obstetrician1,
  2. Sarah Creighton, consultant gynaecologist2,
  3. Comfort Momoh, female genital mutilation/public health specialist1
  1. 1Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Women’s Services, St Thomas’ Hospital, London SE1 7EH
  2. 2University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Department of Women’s Health, London NW1 2PG
  1. susan.bewley{at}

    Paediatricians should resist its medicalisation

    Female genital mutilation is defined by the World Health Organization as any procedure that involves partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.1 Worldwide, 100-140 million girls and women are estimated to live with the consequences of such practices.

    Although a graded classification of types exists,2 female genital mutilation is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights with no health benefits. Immediate risks include haemorrhage, infection, and death. Long term consequences include menstrual problems, infertility, psychosexual and psychological difficulties, and adverse obstetric outcomes including caesarean section, perineal trauma, haemorrhage, and perinatal death.3 So why did the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) amend an earlier policy to suggest that United States law could be changed to allow doctors to “nick” female genitalia, as a cultural compromise?4 Women’s rights organisations, the World Health Organisation, and the UK Royal Colleges of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Paediatrics and Child Health all expressed dismay.5 6 The AAP released a statement on 27 May to say that they have withdrawn the policy,7 but …

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