Myths & Facts about Female Circumcision

Myths & Facts About Female Circumcision

This article aims to debunk some common myths when it comes to female circumcision.

Myth #1

Myth: For female genitalia, even a small nick can cause damage or trauma.

Fact: “De minimis procedures such as removal of the clitoral hood or a ritual nick on the external female genitalia cause little or no functional harm”.1

Myth #2

Myth: The WHO’s definition of FGM is founded on the fact that there is evidence to show that all forms of genital cutting cause harm.

Fact: The WHO cannot advance a single clinical study showing Islamic female circumcision, that is a nick, cut or excision of the prepuce, is harmful.

Myth #3

Myth: Those fighting for the exclusion of female circumcision from the definition of FGM and its recognition as an unrelated practice are religious extremists who are personally invested in the narrative.

Fact: Eminent sociologists, gynaecologists and academics have asked for a review of the WHO’s classification that feeds false information to anti-FGM policies. Richard Schweder2, Juliet Rogers3, Fuambai Ahmadu, Lucrezia Catania4, Brian Earp5, Sara Johnsdotter, Betinna Sheldon-Duncan et al, have widely written that anti-FGM policies are based largely on emotion and not on fact or scientific study, use narratives and labels that give false descriptions to women who choose to practice it, fail to deliver gender parity, fail to be sensitive to cultural norms, and label it patriarchal and abusive without real evidence.

Myth #4

Myth: Islamic female circumcision is much worse than male circumcision.

Fact: There is very little difference between the organ that is affected in both male and female circumcision. The prepuce (foreskin) in females and the prepuce (foreskin) in males are homologous6. However, whilst Islamic female circumcision limits the practice to a nick of the prepuce, male circumcision traditionally calls for the removal of a large part or all of the prepuce.

Myth #5

Myth: Female circumcision is meant to curb a woman’s sexuality.

Fact: The intention of circumcision is not to curb sexuality at all. Circumcision is practiced to adhere to the religious mandate of taharah (purity) and has roots in the Abrahamic conventional tradition.

Myth #6

Myth: Women who have undergone circumcision are exposed to significant risks during childbirth.

Fact: Circumcision has no connection with childbirth.7 8 Only the prepuce is nicked; the birth canal is not touched nor impeded in any fashion.

Myth #7

Myth: Women who have undergone circumcision also suffer from impaired sex lives.

Fact: There is no anatomic reason to believe female circumcision (WHO Type 1a or 4) would negatively affect sexual functioning as Islamic female circumcision does not involve the clitoris and other sexually sensitive organs. On the contrary, clitoral unhooding, a reduction of the prepuce, is routinely carried out to increase sexual pleasure.9 10 On the other hand, vaginal cosmetic surgery available in Western clinics offers a procedure in which a section of the subcutaneous clitoris is amputated, and the two separated parts of the clitoris joined whilst pulling the glans clitoris into the body. It is one of the “treatments” available for reducing the length of the external clitoris without affecting the glans. It is an extremely invasive surgery and is closest to penectomy.

Myth #8

Myth: Circumcision is not mentioned in the Quran and is therefore a cultural, not religious, practice.

Fact: Neither male nor female circumcision is mentioned in the Quran. However, male and female circumcision are explicitly prescribed by the Prophet in the sunnah (Prophetic traditions), and laid down in the books of religious practice or jurisprudence. Details for a broad range of Islamic practices are not explicitly mentioned or explicated in the Quran (including prayer, fasting, zakaah, hajj etc) but are accepted religious practice as they are detailed in the books of religious practice and jurisprudence derived from the Quran and sunnah.

Myth #9

Myth: Female circumcision is equivalent to penectomy.

Fact: Let alone the light female circumcision, even the most invasive form of FGM is not equivalent to penectomy. The equivalent to penectomy would be to remove all external genital tissue and to to fully excise the clitoris. The clitoris is at least 4 inches long and is mostly subcutaneous (embedded within the body), and usually, only the glans are exposed. All traditional practices labelled FGM only affect the external genital tissue and there are no practices that affect any subcutaneous tissue.


  1. Arora KS, Jacobs AJ. Female genital alteration: a compromise solution. Journal of Medical Ethics2016;42:148-154.
  2. Richard A. Shweder (2013) The goose and the gander: the genital wars, Global Discourse, 3:2, 348-366, DOI: 10.1080/23269995.2013.811923
  3. Juliet B Rogers. The First Case Female Genital Alteration in Australia Where Is The Harm? AltLJ Vol 41:4 2016 235-238
  4. Catania L, Abdulcadir O, Puppo V, Baldaro Verde J, Abdulcadir J, and Abdulcadir D. Pleasure and orgasm in women with female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). J Sex Med 2007;4:1666–1678.
  5. Earp, Brian & Steinfeld, Rebecca. (2017). Gender and genital cutting: a new paradigm. in press.
  6. Sloane, Ethel (2002). Biology of Women. Cengage Learning. p. 32. ISBN 0766811425; Crooks, Robert; Baur, Karla (2010). Our Sexuality. Cengage Learning. p. 54. ISBN 0495812943; Mulhall, John P. (2011). John P. Mulhall, Luca Incrocci, Irwin Goldstein, Ray Rosen, eds. Cancer and Sexual Health. Springer. pp. 13–22. ISBN 1-60761-915-6.
  7. No association between female circumcision and prolonged labour: a case control study of immigrant women giving birth in Sweden, Essén, Birgitta. Available at:
  8. Is there an association between female circumcision and perinatal death, Essén, Birgitta. Available at:
  9. n.d.Reduction of Excess Prepuce. Reduction of Excess Prepuce or Clitoral Hood Reduction, Dr. Jennifer Hayes | Florida | Cosmetic Gynecology. Retrieved June 17, 2017, from
  10. n.d.Clitoral Unhooding, or Hoodectomy Is Also Known as Clitoral Circumcision. Retrieved June 17, 2017, from

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