Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a collective term for all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural, religious or non-therapeutic reasons. It may also be called female circumcision or female genital cutting.
The practice is extremely painful and has serious health consequences, both at the time when the mutilation is carried out, and in later life. It can also be psychologically damaging.
The procedure is typically performed on girls aged between 4 and 13, but in some cases FGM is performed on new born infants or on young women prior to marriage or pregnancy. Many of the victims are therefore young and vulnerable. A number of girls die as a direct result of the procedure, from blood loss or infection. In the longer term, women who have undergone FGM are twice as likely to die in childbirth, and four times more likely to give birth to a stillborn child.
In some countries/communities FGM is a deeply rooted, traditional cultural practice. Reasons cited for it include: maintaining virginity, chastity or fidelity; custom, tradition and social acceptance (especially for marriage); hygiene and aesthetic reasons (the external female genitalia may be considered dirty and unsightly); and the myth that it enhances fertility.
Some may believe that it is a religious obligation but no religion requires FGM. Neither the Bible nor the Koran endorses FGM and the leaders of all major religions have condemned it.
There is no evidence that this practice is widespread within communities in Scotland, although evidence can be difficult to establish.
FGM is illegal in Scotland.