Is Female Genital Mutilation a matter of religion ?

  • FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons (WHO). The practice concerns more than 200 million girls and women in the world, and may result in severe health problems, both short and long-term, serious psychological damage, as well as troubles in the girl’s or the woman’s sexual life.
  • FGM is practiced in various regions of the world: Africa (e.g Egypt, Mali, Guinea) but also Asia (e.g. Indonesia, Malaysia), Middle East (e.g. Iraq, Iran), South America (Colombia, Peru), Europe… It has been observed in several societies, whether religious or not.
  • Nevertheless, it is important to question the link between religion and FGM. Undeniably, if several reasons may be cited by FGM-practising communities to justify the practice such as the respect of the tradition, the control of women’s sexuality, marriageability … religion is often one of the first elements evoked.

=> In Mali, 64% of women believe FGM to be a religious requirement, just as 57% of women in Mauritania or 49% of women in Egypt for example (1).

=> Beyond these individual justifications, religious authorities themselves may present FGM as a religious requirement, as seen in Malaysia or Indonesia (2).