Naming routine episiotomy for what it is: female genital mutilation. Conceptual contributions from childbirth experiences in Chile

Keywords: Medical anthropology; Birth; Iatrogenia; Female genital mutilation.


During the 20th century, episiotomy expanded as a practice in obstetrics. At present, after more than three decades of solid scientific evidence that recommends not practicing it routinely, it continues to be performed in alarmingly high numbers. This article analyzes the cultural meaning of episiotomy as a rite within technocratic childbirth, based on childbirth testimonies given by women in the First Survey on Childbirth in Chile, carried out by the Chilean Obstetric Violence Observatory in 2017. These testimonies show that episiotomy is, in most cases, practiced routinely, without consent, and that it has serious consequences in the physical and mental health and in the sexual life of women. Thus, it can be considered as a western form of female genital mutilation. We conclude by stating that it is urgent to attend to this practice and name it for what it is: a form of genital mutilation with serious consequences in the lives of women, which must be made visible.


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Author Biography

Michelle Sadler, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez - Chile

PhD in Anthropology and Communication, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona (2021); Master of Science in Medical Anthropology, University of Oxford (2006); Master in Gender Studies, University of Chile (2005); Bachelor in Social Anthropology, University of Chile (2004). Adjunct Researcher, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez Chile; Postdoctoral Researcher, Women´s and Gender Studies Program, University of Haifa, Israel. Founding member of the Latin American Network for the Humanization of Childbirth (RELACAHUPAN, 2000-2022); Director of the Observatory of Obstetric Violence Chile (2014-2022).


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How to Cite
Sadler, M. (2022). Naming routine episiotomy for what it is: female genital mutilation. Conceptual contributions from childbirth experiences in Chile. Religación, 7(34), e210995.