Justifying female genital cutting

The reasons that attempt to justify female genital cutting (FGM/C) are varied and complex. Many of the practising communities invoke tradition and religion or view FGM/C as a guarantee of virginity and fidelity.

One aspect common to the many and varied justified reasons is the notion that female genital cutting is deeply rooted in tradition. Today it is thought that the origins of genital cutting lie in Ancient Egypt.
The main reasons justifying FGM/C are:

  • Tradition: Many communities that practise FGM/C invoke cultural tradition – they continue the practice because this is what has “always” been done.
  • Social norm: In communities where FGM/C is widespread, genital cutting is what determines the girl’s membership of a family and society, or her exclusion from them. Genital cutting is part of raising a daughter, preparing her for adulthood and marriage. FGM/C is often a prerequisite for marriage.
  • Sexuality: Genital cutting is believed to lower a woman’s libido and ensure that she will not engage in sexual relations before marriage and will remain faithful to her husband throughout the marriage. In addition, some people believe that genital cutting enhances male sexual satisfaction.
  • Religion: Genital cutting is practised in communities of many different religions: Christian, Islamic and others. Communities that practise FGM/C frequently cite religion as an important reason for the practice. However, there is no written record of a duty to practise female genital cutting in any of the world’s major religions. Moreover, the custom of genital cutting predates the emergence of Christianity and Islam.
  • Aesthetic reasons: In some communities, genitalia that have not been cut are considered unattractive or unclean.
  • Cultural identity and belonging: In the context of migration, female genital cutting can serve the additional function of maintaining a connection with  the country of origin. This can contribute to the preservation of cultural identity.


Internationales Institut der Rechte des Kindes (IDE) (2012). Weibliche Genitalverstümmelung. Didaktisches Handbuch für Fachpersonal in der Schweiz. Luzern: Pädagogische Hochschule Luzern. Und: World Health Organisation (WHO) (2016). Female Genital Mutilation. website