Probably the most controversial body modification practice in the world today are the group of procedures referred to as female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM). What makes these customs so protested and debated is that they are done nonconsensually to young girls primarily ranging from the age of babies through young teenagers. And while most body modification customs have evolved as a form of aesthetics, this practices are a form of control and denial shrouded in the mystique of religious belief.
What is being done to these girls has long been referred to as "circumcision" however modern women's rights groups have correctly pointed out that the majority of these methods are not a simple modification but radical surgery. The girls to whom these procedures are done may be subject to anything from having the clitoral hood removed to having their clitoris cut off (excision) or the vaginal opening sewn shut (infibulation). This is most often done to them before the onset of puberty, frequently under conditions without any sterilization of tools or the administration of any anesthetic.
The cultures that continue to practice FGM are found mostly in Africa and the Middle East and are predominantly Muslim. Some who defend the practices say that these modification are cited in the Koran (Qur'an), and yet no actual mention of these practices exist in that book. Women who refuse the procedures can often be considered unclean, shunned by their families and denied marriage, which is often their only means of support. There have been several legal battles in the US around cases where immigrants fled to this country in an attempt to escape having FGM done to them only to be imprisoned or denied asylum. There have also been several cases where legal action has been filed against parents who attempted to have FGM done on their daughters while living in this country, both "underground" and by doctors openly offering to do perform the procedures. Legislation in the state of Georgia was passed in an attempt to stop such practices, and they ignorantly worded the law so that any form of consensual genital body piercing that an adult woman might choose for herself was also outlawed.
To learn more about the tragic situation surrounding FGM, you might like reading Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women by Alice Walker or Female Genital Mutilation: Legal, Cultural And Medical Issues by Rosemarie Skaine