Country: Iran

Population:  80.8 million

Estimated prevalence among women and girls: Unknown

FGC is practised in some parts of Iran (largely in the South and the West). Small scale studies suggest varying prevalence levels in some localities. A study by Tahereh Pashaei and others found prevalence levels of 55.7% amongst women in Ravansar. Another study by Khadivzadeh and others in Minab found that prevalence was 70%. In Quesm, the practice was prevalent amongst 7.2% of Shi’a Muslims and 70% of Sunni Muslims. Here, there has been a reduction in prevalence which may be due to influence of the media. It is suggested that cutting largely happens in rural areas, around the age of 7.

Type practised:

Small scale studies suggest Types I and II are the most prevalent in Iran.

Legal status:

Iranian law does not mention FGC, but does punish mutilation of the body. The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran released a fatwa in June 2014 saying that neither female nor male circumcision was obligatory.

History of FGC in Iran:

Historically, the existence of FGC in Iran has largely been ignored at the international level.

Current efforts to abandon FGC:

Whilst work is happening in Iran, it is relatively small scale and under the radar in order to avoid detection. For organisations working on taboo issues such as FGC or HIV, it may be the case that no data collection or media can be allowed.

Anti-FGC activists in the region have been an integral part of raising awareness recently of FGC in Iran through the recent Südwind paper and submission to UNGA. Activists go door-to-door talking to girls, families, and especially mothers involved in the decision to cut daughters.

Orchid Project has been told that the government does not want to address FGC because it does not want to be involved in what it sees as the ‘private’ affairs of its people.

Small studies have found that the practice is significantly related to education and knowledge of FGC and thus call for an increase in efforts targeted at increasing education and public knowledge of FGC and its impacts.

There are calls for a comprehensive study on FGC in Iran along with local capacity to be built, with work to include religious and community leaders.

Ongoing challenges:

Greater awareness and education is required, as well as support from the government towards abandonment of the practice.

Religious leaders in Iran have varying views on the practice. Some, like Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi in his book “Fatwa and Gender Roles” state that a ban has been ordered on FGC whilst The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran stated that FGC is not obligatory but suggested it is permissible and that “if it does not have disadvantage or it is not harmful for wife, she have to listen her husband`s request” [sic]. However, he also suggested that since there has been a change in social norms, FGC would now not be acceptable.

Major languages:

Persian (official)



Major religions:

Muslim (official) 99.4%: Shia 90-95% Sunni 5-10%

News and Blogs:

FGC in Iran

In the news:

Rudaw – Iranian Government’s says FGC does not exist in the Islamic Republic of Iran, but anthropologist Kameel Ahmady reports that it is prevalent in at least four Iranian provinces

The Economic Times – Iranian Social Anthropologist says ‘Iran can no longer shun its responsibility for tackling FGM’

The Guardian - First authoritative study reveals at least four provinces are practicing FGC

Stop FGM Middle East - FGC in Iran must be put on the international agenda

International Business Times - Female genital cutting embraced by Sunni Muslims as Shiite government looks the other way

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