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Rethinking the classification of Female Genital Mutilation

July 14th, 2006

Dr Petra

The latest edition of the British Medical Journal has an interesting paper about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which argues that the World Health Organisation’s classification of FGM is not always helpful.

Whilst the WHO defines four types of FGM
I. Excision of prepuce and part or all of clitoris
II. Excision of prepuce and clitoris together with partial or total excision of labia minora
III. Infibulation and excision of part or all of external genitalia
IV. Pricking, piercing, incision, stretching, scraping or other harming procedures on clitoris and/or labia

The authors of the research argue that FGM is named and interpreted in different ways by different cultures – and not all forms of circumcision fit neatly within the WHO classification. They argue for the WHO to reclassify terms, but also advocate more discussion with women and girls who have been circumcised.

Elsewhere in the BMJ is a challenging discussion piece that argues whilst the issue of FGM in the developing world is a problem; the main area where genital surgery is on the rise is within the West with the growing trend of labia and vaginaplasty. The author argues before those in the West criticise the practice of FGM in the developing world they should firstly challenge women having reconstructive genital surgery.

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