The practice of female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, occurs throughout the world, but it is most common in Africa. Female genital mutilation is a tradition and social custom to keep a young girl pure and a married woman faithful. In Africa it is practiced in the majority of the continent including Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mozambique and Sudan. It is a cross-cultural and cross-religious ritual, which is performed by Muslims, Coptic Christians, Protestants, Catholics and members of various indigenous groups.
Female genital mutilation is usually performed on girls before they reach puberty. It is a procedure where either part or the entire clitoris is surgically removed leaving a reduced or total lack of sexual feeling. This procedure is an attempt to reduce the sex drive of women, making them less likely to be sexually active before marriage or engage in extra-marital affairs. Although this procedure can be seen as a means to control a woman’s sexuality, the act of female circumcision determines the gender identity of women. A circumcised woman is a virgin, ready for marriage and to bear children for her husband, “Girls who are infibulated will probably not find husbands. In most cases they will become outcasts.”
Female genital mutilation is not a new practice. In fact circumcised females have been discovered among the mummies of ancient Egyptians. A Greek papyrus dated 163 BC refers to operations performed on girls at the age they received their dowries. A Greek geographer reported the custom of circumcision of girls he found while visiting Egypt in 25 BC. In Africa female circumcision has been reported in at least twenty-six countries and can be viewed as a public health problem “because of its wide geographic distribution, the number of females involved and the serious complications caused by the operation.”
Female genital mutilation is practiced in three major forms: “Sunna” circumcision, Clitoridectomy, and Infibulation. Sunna circumcision consists of the removal of the tip of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (covering). Clitoridectomy, also referred to as excision, consists of the removal of the entire clitoris (both prepuce and glans) and removal of the adjacent labia. Infibulation, also referred to as phara...
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...s, and aunts footsteps, which would bring shame against herself and tarnish her family honor.
Female genital mutilation is such a brutal and barbaric practice that it is amazing it is still occurs today. The health hazards associated with it should be enough to have it terminated. However, the reasons women have forgoing through with the operation is the custom of female genital mutilation is so engrained in their sociocultural system. The importance of family honor, virginity, chastity, purity, marriageability, and childbearing in these societies cannot be overstressed. Therefore in the minds of the people who adhere to this belief, the benefits gained from this operation for the girl and her family far outweigh any potential danger.
Female Genital Mutilation. See: http://www.religioustolerance.org/fem_cirm.htm
Female Genital Mutilation Research Homepage. See: http://www.hollyfield.org/fgm/
Kouba, Leonard and Judith Muasher
1985 Female Circumcision in Africa: an Overview. African Studies Review 28:95-110.
Van Der Kwaak, Anke
1992 Female Circumcision and Gender Identity: A Questionable Alliance? Social Science and Medicine 35(6):777-787.
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