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Female genital mutilation

Female; genital; mutilation; circumcision; sunna; clitoridectomy; infibulation; clitoris; Pharaonic; Somalian; angurya; cut; gishiri; child; abuse; sexuality; migration; migrant; de-infibulation; re-infibulation ;

Female genital mutilation (sometimes called female circumcision) is the name for several different ways of cutting or removing parts of female genitals, or narrowing or closing the opening to the vagina.


There are many reasons why female circumcision is practised. The main reason is because of tradition. It is believed that circumcision will keep girls pure until marriage. Virginity is very important to the family so that daughters will be respected in the community. It is believed that circumcision is good for the girls to ensure good behaviour, morality, cleanliness and family honour. It is also believed that a wife will be faithful to her husband if she is circumcised. It is something that women of the community do because they love the girl.

Some people believe female circumcision is a requirement of their religion. But this is not true. Circumcision began before any modern religion including Islam and Christianity. Neither the Koran nor the Bible, nor any other Religious Book says that we must circumcise the girls.

Humanitarian groups in countries where female genital mutilation is practised are leading international efforts to stop this practice.  They have taken a strong position against it on the basis of the risks of physical and psychological harm, the need to prevent gender-based violence and also its impact on the status of women and the well being of the whole community.  Community development and education programs have been implemented to promote the prevention of this practice.

Migration to a country such as Australia can cause added pressure on women from communities where FGM is practiced. Arrival in a new country brings many problems of adjustment, language, finding a place to live and a job. The perception that the country you are moving to is concerned about FGM and there are laws about it, and reports in the media, can be embarrassing, humiliating and confusing for young women whose experience is that it is an important and accepted practice and not something for public discussion. Women who have practiced this in isolated parts of the world can find it difficult to understand and accept the negative reaction to it. This can make them feel alienated and not accepted.

The practice of female genital mutilation is against criminal and child protection law in South Australia. It is also against the law to take a child out of South Australia to another country to have this done. FGM or the threat or likelihood of FGM needs to be reported to the Child Abuse Report Line on 13 14 78.

More information

South Australia




UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund

World Health Organisation (WHO)

 Resources in South Australia

Further reading

Australian Government, Australian Institute of Family Studies

Australian Medical Association 'Female genital mutilation: Australian law, policy and practical challenges for doctors' Medical Journal of Australia MJA 2011; 194(3):139-141 http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/194_03_070211/

British Medical Association "Female Genital Mutilation: caring for patients and child protection" 2011 

Department of Health, South Australia Perinatal Practice Guideline 2008 'Female Genital Mutilation' (guideline)

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