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USAID Policy on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Annex

Effective Date: 09/01/2000

Annex to USAID Policy on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Explanation of Terminology

Female Circumcision (FC), Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Female Genital Cutting (FGC), Female Genital Surgeries (FGS) are all terms that have been used to refer to the tradition of altering female genitalia. Under current policy, USAID uses the neutral term, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). This decision has been prompted by the rejection of the term FGM by many practicing communities and activists who consider it judgmental, pejorative and not conducive to discussion and collaboration. Those who link activism against FGM/C to the colonial period consider the term FGM to be evidence of cultural imperialism.

Issues of identity, culture and other social norms are interwoven in the practice. Naming the tradition after its physical effects ignores the cultural underpinnings of FGM/C. Further, the practicing societies regard circumcision as a beautification process while the campaigns against FGM/C seek to convince those who practice FGM/C that it is "mutilation." Calling a woman 'mutilated' insults her and may lead to psychological trauma, particularly for young girls and women living in non-practicing societies.

For those who practice FGM/C, it is considered a beneficial act. FGM/C renders a girl marriageable in societies where a woman's quality of life depends on her status as a wife and a mother, and a respectable woman who qualifies for a good status in her community even if she does not get married. The term "female genital mutilation" stigmatizes the practice to the detriment of the programs trying to change it.

USAID Policy on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) [PDF, 19KB]


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