It is known as female genital mutilation, a practice that is prevalent in many countries. There are laws against it, but that is not enough to resolve what has become a complex global issue.
It is the focus of growing debate in Africa and Asia where it is most practised. But it is also an issue in the West, with tens of thousands of cases among immigrant communities.
France is one of many countries where it is banned. Action is also tough here, with more than a hundred prosecutions for mutilation carried out on French soil.
Legislation also covers cases where girls are sent abroad to states where the cutting of the female external genitalia is still legal.
Euronews met the Senegalese-born author Khady Koïta, who has campaigned for many years on the issue in Paris. A mother of four, now based in Brussels, she recounted her own experience at the age of seven.