Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Women’s perspectives of female genital cutting: Q-methodology

Nazar P Shabila1*, Abubakir M Saleh1 and Rojan K Jawad2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Medicine, College of Medicine, Hawler Medical University, Erbil, Iraq

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine, Hawler Medical University, Erbil, Iraq

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BMC Women's Health 2014, 14:11  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-14-11

Published: 17 January 2014



Understanding women’s perspectives of female genital cutting is particularly critical for understanding the roots of the problem and enhancing effectiveness of any prevention program. Very limited research has examined how people in Iraqi Kurdistan Region think about this practice. This study aimed to explore the perspectives of women of female genital cutting with the aim of uncovering discrepancies and commonalities between women of different socio-educational groups.


An explorative study using Q-methodology was conducted with 29 women from different educational and socio-economic statuses in Erbil, the main city of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Participants were asked to rank-order a set of 39 statements about different aspects of female genital cutting into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis was performed with factors or latent viewpoints extracted through centroid method and varimax rotation.


A four-factor solution and one consensus perspective provided the best conceptual fit for the women’s perspectives about female genital cutting. Factor 1, entitled “positive cultural tradition”, centers on recognizing female genital cutting as a positive cultural aspect and an essential part of the Kurdish culture. Factor 2, “active opponents”, positions around actively opposing the practice of female genital cutting and considering the practice a violation of human rights. Factor 3, “role of law”, stresses the importance of developing and enforcing law for combating female genital cutting. Factor 4, “health concerns and passive opposition”, represents the perspectives of recognizing the importance of health concerns resulting from female genital cutting and opposition of the practice but not in an active manner. A consensus perspective, “marital role”, centers primarily on lack of effect of female genital cutting on women’s marital role.


Female genital cutting is still a contentious issue among women in Iraqi Kurdistan Region. By identifying disagreement and consensus among women, four different perspectives on female genital cutting were uncovered with having perspectives at both extremes of accepting the practice and actively opposing it. The study highlighted the typical characterizations that are associated with each perspective.