Female Genital Mutilation: Why Are Doctors Silent?

Ranit Mishori, MD, MHS


January 07, 2019

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

Words Matter

Professional organizations' policies and statements are important. Often, they take the lead and set the agenda for their members. More effectively than individual members, organizations can affect broader regulations, policies, and laws, and participate in multisectoral work. Our representative organizations have a responsibility to us and to our patients to develop, strengthen, and support specific and concrete actions directed towards helping our members appropriately address FGM/C in clinical practice.

Global trends in the medicalization of FGM/C should worry us here in the United States, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the Michigan case.[1] Individual physicians, along with our representative organizations and societies, must take a position on this issue and make explicit statements about our role in performing genital alteration on patients under the age of 18. We cannot wait for the current legal confusion to be resolved. We cannot wait until state legislators draft and vote on new FGM/C laws, or until Congress enacts a new federal law.

Our societies and member organizations have a responsibility to set the tone for an evidence-based national conversation and make their stand—our stand—clear to all stakeholders, including our patients and their family members. FGM/C is a human rights violation, and doctors—or any other health professional—should not perform it (in any form) or assist others in performing it.

Words matter. Against the silence, they are the only boundaries we have right now. Let's use them.

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