Words Matter: Charting the Landscape of US and International Health Profession Organizations' Public Statements About FGM/C

J Immigr Minor Health. 2019 Aug;21(4):893-904. doi: 10.1007/s10903-018-0818-2.


Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is common across the globe and seen in high income countries that host migrants from high prevalence countries. Management of FGM/C in the host countries can be complicated due its often conflicting social, cultural, ethical, legal, and medical dynamics. Health profession organizations often create policy and position statements that set the tone and direction for the organization and describe desired methods, behaviors and actions applicable to the entire organization and its members. It is unclear whether or what organizational statements exist on FGM/C. We reviewed publicly available statements made by health profession organizations whose members care for women and girls affected by or at risk for, FGM/C, and assessed their content related to medicalization, reinfibulation and vacation cutting. Of a total of 47 organizations, 24 (51%) had any statements. Of 15 physician organizations, only 4 (26%) US-based physician organizations had any statements. 17 had specific statements on clinician involvement, but the tone and instructional nature varied. Re-infibulation was mentioned by 41% organizations with statements. 29% mentioned vacation cutting. Many, but not all, health profession organizations have statements for their members on FGM/C, and those vary in what is covered, and in what recommendations are given. Health profession organizations serve and are the face and voice of their members. As such, they have a responsibility to educate their members, set the tone for the conversation, and make their stand clear to their members and other stakeholders, including patients.

Keywords: Female circumcision; Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); Health profession organizations.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Circumcision, Female / psychology*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Policy
  • Human Rights
  • Humans
  • United States