Ritualistic sexual mutilation of females dates back to the fifth century B.C. This traditional practice is a social as well as a health issue that affects the physical and mental well being of the women who undergo it. Although practiced mostly in African countries north of the equator and the Middle-East, concern has recently been expressed that female genital mutilation is also being practiced in the U.S., Europe, and other western countries by immigrants from these countries. This review describes the various types of female genital mutilation and presents the historical and cultural background of the tradition, outlines the medical, psychological and sexual problems, and discusses the current status and future outlook for this tradition, emphasizing social, medical, and legislative aspects.
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Department of Neonatology, The Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.
Reprint requests to: Uriel Elchalal, MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Hadassah University Hospital, Ein-Kerem, Jerusalem, Israel.
Authors whose names are accompanied by an asterisk (*) have indicated, in accordance with the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) Standards, that they have a relationship which could be perceived by some people as a real or apparent conflict of interest, but do not feel it has influenced their participation.