The UN, UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and NGOs working to eradicate unnecessary genital cutting of girls prefer to call it FGC rather than FGM because they find it easier to engage with parents and communities if they use an accurate but morally unladen word to educate them from continuing their practices. They have settled on “FGM/C”.

“Female circumcision” is frequently used in the media. However it can only ever be accurate where the sole practice is the removal of the clitoral hood, without cutting either the clitoris itself or any other part of the vulva (TYPE II FGM/C). However because the word originated with the cutting of boys and men either ritually or as a weapon of war, it is not truly analogous.

In accordance with international practice AIGA refers to FGM/C.


Doctors and some intersex communities overseas use the acronym DSD for “Disorders of Sexual Development” when referring to people with uncommon but natural genetic and anatomical variations not typically female or typically male. Australian and NZ intersex communities generally reject the term “disorder” because they reject thinking of natural variations as “disorders” and reject the fact of being intersex being treated as a medical condition – “medicalised”.

Sections of the intersex community here and overseas refer to the unnecessary genital surgery of intersex babies and children as IGM (intersex genital mutilation). However the word “mutilation” has other meaning and may connote an intention to disfigure rather than the opposite intention to beautify, so may not fit all situations.

AIGA also rejects the notion of “disorder” and the medical model and uses the term “intersex”. Whether intersex genital surgery improves or beatifies or mutilates and destroys a person’s genitals, all surgery involves “cutting”. By analogy with the FGM/C model AIGA refers to IGM/C.


There can be no question that at least some of the procedures involved in FGM/C and IGM/C are less invasive, less permanent and less risky than the removal of the whole of the male foreskin, and part of the frenulum. “Circumcision” as a word is associated in our cultures with some level of authority, acceptance and approval. To change cultures we need new language.

Many who practice it believe that foreskin removal beautifies and improves male genitals; others regard it as a disfiguration and a mutilation. Both must agree that it is at least “cutting”.

For conformity with the FGM/C and IGM/C models AIGA refers to male circumcision as MGM/C.


Some people distinguish between “therapeutic” and ”non-therapeutic” genital cutting of girls, boys and intersex children. However as intersex advocates have pointed out [hyperlink] both these words continue to medicalise something that does not need to be medicalised, and leave the definition one way or the other in the hands of doctors, rather than parents, society or the child themselves. In Marion’s Case the High Court ‘hesitated’ to make a distinction between therapeutic and non-therapeutic in their judgment, so instead they did make a distinction between surgical intervention that treated ‘some malfunction or disease’ and surgery that did not.

AIGA uses the phrase “medically unnecessary” to reflect surgery that does not treat “some malfunction or disease”.