Enter the term “FGM” in Google Images and you will find pictures related to female genital mutilation on the African continent. While the origins of FGM are murky, most experts think the practice came from Africa thousands of years ago, was later adopted by some sects of Islam and spread globally through migration.
But the truth is much more complicated. After I spent a good part of a decade travelling to research FGM around the world, I can say unequivocally that it can be found as a native practice on every continent except Antarctica. It is a global phenomenon, emerging in various places at different times, often independently.
People I have met are often surprised that I research FGM as my gender and Chinese ethnicity make me an unlikely investigator. And indeed, when I first heard about the practice in Iraq, it was by chance.