'I want what every other woman has': reasons for wanting clitoral reconstructive surgery after female genital cutting - a qualitative study from Sweden

Cult Health Sex. 2019 Jun;21(6):701-716. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2018.1510980. Epub 2018 Oct 22.


Female genital cutting (FGC) involves the removal of women's external genitalia for non-therapeutic reasons. An estimated 38,000 women living in Sweden have undergone some form of the procedure. These women often belong to marginalised minorities of immigrant women from countries where FGC is widespread. Clitoral reconstructive surgery following FGC has recently been introduced in Sweden. This study investigates women's perceptions of FGC and clitoral reconstructive surgery with a particular focus on: (1) reasons for requesting reconstructive surgery, and (2) FGC-affected women's expectations of the surgery. Seventeen women referred for clitoral reconstructive surgery at the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, participated in the study. Findings revealed five factors motivating women's request for clitoral reconstruction (CR): (1) symbolic restitution - undoing the harm of FGC; (2) repairing the visible stigma of FGC; (3) improving sex and intimacy through physical, aesthetic and symbolic recovery; (4) eliminating physical pain; (5) and CR as a personal project offering hope. These factors were highly interconnected, suggesting that the reasons for seeking surgery were often multiple and complex.

Keywords: Female genital mutilation; Sweden; clitoral reconstruction; female circumcision; female genital cutting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa / ethnology
  • Circumcision, Female* / adverse effects
  • Circumcision, Female* / rehabilitation
  • Clitoris / surgery*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Female
  • Grounded Theory
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Iraq / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sweden