The traditional custom of female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM) persists primarily in Africa but has occurrences in at least 28 countries (Morris, 1996, pg. 43). FGM is a collective term that describes several different traditional, not religious, rituals. It has been estimated that between 100 million and 140 million infants, toddlers, children and adolescent females have undergone a FGM procedure and that between 4-5 million of these procedures are performed yearly (Althaus, 1997, pg.1).
FGM is most often performed between the ages of 4-10 years and is performed by the village physician (Althaus, 1997, pg. 2). Typically the procedure uses a variety of instruments, such as knives, broken glass, and fruit thorns (Morris, 1996, pg. 45). According to Rita Morris, PhD, the procedures are classified according to the severity of structural disfigurement. Type I, often known as clitorectomy, involves removal of the skin surrounding the clitoris, and may or may not include removal of the clitoris. Type II, or excision, is the removal of the clitoris and part of all of the labia minora. The excisions are sutured with catgut or fruit thorns. Type III, infibulation, is the most severe form of FGM. In infibulation, the entire clitoris and labia minora are removed and the labia majora are sewn together, leaving only a large enough opening in the vagina for urination and menstruation. There are many physical and psychosocial ramifications associated with all types of FGM….