The origin of this practice is largely unknown, but the practice pre-dates contemporary world religions. A mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities are the main reasons of developing and continuation of the practice. The majority of them are based in myths and misinformation.


A rite of passage into womanhood

In certain communities a girl cannot be considered an adult in an FGM-practising society unless she has undergone FGM. That is, the process is a distinctive element of belonging, of being a member of the group.


Improved hygiene

In some cultures there is a belief that female genitalia are unsightly and dirty. In some FGM-practising societies, unmutilated women are regarded as unclean and are not allowed to handle food and water.



FGM is often deemed necessary in order for a girl to be considered a complete woman, and the practice marks the divergence of the sexes in terms of their future roles in life and marriage. Most mothers practise FGM on their daughters to ensure their daughters a future of respect and well-being.


Control over women’s sexuality

In many communities, a girl’s/woman’s virginity is a prerequisite for marriage and central to concepts of family honour. FGM, in particular infibulation, is defended in this context as it is assumed to reduce sexual desire and so lessen a girl’s/woman’s temptation to have premarital sex, thereby preserving her virginity. Infibulation also provides “proof” of virginity.


Protecting religion

FGM predates all religions and is not an official religious requirement by any religion. However there are some misconceptions around this issue with many people believing it is a requirement for their faith. It is important to note that FGM is carried out across a number of religious groups.