Essay Female Genital Mutilation

Female circumcision is also known, more accurately, as female genital mutilation and female genital cutting (FGC.) There are three forms of FGC. The first is a clitoridectomy, the cutting and/or removal of the hood of the clitoris and all or part of the clitoris. The second is an excision which removes the clitoris, the hood, and the labia minor (the inner folds of the vulva that is responsible for producing lubrication.) The infibulation is the third and most radical which also removes everything in the excision along with the labia majora, the outer folds of the vulva. Once removed the sides of the vulva are sewn together leaving a small hole (about pencil size) for the flow of menstruation and urine. The tradition of FGC dates back more than 1000 years and is practiced in parts of Asia, the Far East, Europe, Asia, South America, and even among certain ethnic groups in the United States.

Aisha Abdel Majid tells of her experience in an interview with Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf, an anthropologist born in Sudan, in her article “Unmasking the Tradition of Female Circumcision.” Majid describes her cutting is when she was only 6 years old. She recalls being taken by her mother and two aunts to the midwife in the neighborhood known for performing circumcisions. She is told that she is going to be purified. Upon this realization Aisha tries to break free but is forced down and ordered onto a bed of ropes with a hole in the middle. She accounts,

They held me tight while the midwife started to cut my flesh without anesthetics. I screamed till I lost my voice. The midwife was saying to me, ‘Do you want me to be taken into police custody?’ After the job was done I could not eat, drink or even pass urine for three days. I remember one of my uncles who discovered what they did to me threatened to press charges against his sisters. They were afraid of him and they decided to bring me back to the midwife. In her sternest voice she ordered me to squat on the floor and urinate. It seemed like the most difficult thing to do at that point, but I did it. I urinated for a long time and was shivering with pain. (Abusharif pgs 1-2)

Aisha continues on though it took her a long time to recover looking back now over forty years later she understands the motivations of her mother wanting her to be clean, but it was a lot of anguish. Clearly, female circumcision is an inhumane practice justified with ignorant beliefs and false benefits.

This is one testimony similar to millions of instances that occur each year. According to 3 separate studies published in Bioethics details the severity of the type of circumcisions varied greatly by region. A study in Sierra Leone found that thirty nine percent of females had undergone the clitoridectomy, sixty percent the excision, and about 1 percent the infibulations. The same year, 1982, a study was done in Somalia eighty percent of the operations were the excision. The article also includes a study done in 1993 that found “the pervasiveness of genital mutilation in Africa ranged from 10 percent in Tanzania to 98 percent in Djibouti”(Circumcision pg1.) Regardless of how evasive the genital cutting done the low estimate found in a clinical report from The Alan Guttmacher Institute more than 100 million women have had some level of FGC. It is also estimated 2 million more girls from ages four to twelve years old will be cut annually. A motivational factor behind this testimony was for purification.

Purification is one of the traditional beliefs of why FGC is necessary. The word for circumcision in traditional Arabic is tahara meaning to purify. While FGC occurs in varying religions it is most strong in the Islam religion and is believed to be requirement by many Muslims. The Koran, the bible of Islam, however nowhere in it refers to female circumcision. Mohammed, the god of the Muslims, declared rights for women although they are to be considered below men. Mohammed displayed humanity toward females when he banned the old Arabic pre-Islam practice of burying undesired female babies alive. The Koran cites in the following verse, “Sura 2:228,” that women have rights too “…Women shall with justice have rights similar to those exercised against them, although men have a status above women. God is mighty and wise” (qtd. in Voula pg2.) Therefore, the justification via religious beliefs is unfounded confirmed by the main offending religions messiah himself.

Another commonly held belief behind FGC is that there is some form of medical benefit to the girl. In Nigeria there are ethnic groups that believe if a baby comes into contact with the clitoris during childbirth the baby will die. Others believe the clitoris will grow to be penis like and drag on the ground. Female genitalia are believed by some to be poisonous to sperm and must be removed to maintain fertility. None of these beliefs are true; in fact FGC has quite the opposite effect on fertility and the health of the girls. Infertility can in truth be a medical complication caused by the cutting. The death of a child does not happen due to contact with a clitoris in the birth, but the obstructed labor as a result of the cutting can cause the baby to be born with brain damage or even dead. In a clinical report done in accordance with classification designed by the World Health Organization the studies show, “Infants born to women who had undergone the moderately severe and most severe types of mutilation were more likely to have required resuscitation at deliver…and more likely to have died while their mother was an inpatient… than infants born to women who had not had genital mutilation.” (Not Just Skin pg 3.) While the clitoris is formed with similar nerve tissue that develops into the penis, this is often why the removal of the clitoris is compared to the equivalent of removal of the penis, the clitoris does not grow into a dangling penis like mass. The complications range from immediate to long term including hemorrhaging, the inability to urinate, tetanus, pelvic inflammation, cysts, scar tissue, tumors, chronic urinary tract infections, bladder and kidney stones, and death. These medical complications demonstrate the horrific effects of FGC on the health of the girl and obviously do not present a benefit as those who practice FGC believe.

A result of FGC is not only painful intercourse, but likewise decreased sexual pleasure. This lack of a sexual appetite is one reason given for justification of the procedure. If a woman does not undergo the procedure she is believed she will be loose and promiscuous. The FGC is considered a safeguard against casual and premarital sex. The belief that a woman will be unable to control her sexual desire lest she is mutilated is unreasonable. The belief places all the responsibility of sexual promiscuity on the female and leaves the male unaccountable for his role in the sexual exchange. This belief again displays the fear and ignorance embedded around FGC.

The US Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1995 protects us in the US from these abusive forms of treatment however not every country holds the same belief system. While it is true the tradition of FGC has long roots in history and hold important cultural meanings it does not justify the harm inflected on the innocent. The rationalization of justification by tradition does not take away the wrong doings in abolished practices such as slavery, hangings, the burning of people at the stake, human sacrifice, and cannibalism all of which at some point were an accepted traditional behavior by varying cultural beliefs.

Three of the main beliefs for the practicing of FGC have been dispelled including religion, health benefits, and sexual control. It is through education of the women and the cultural that may be bring about change. The higher the education of a woman the less likely she is to have her child undergo the cutting. Through education and support from the US and other countries may future daughters, children, and wives be safe from mutilation.

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Essay on Female Genital Mutilation

Two million girls are subjected to female genital mutilation in the name of tradition every year (Win News). That is a large amount of females that undergo this procedure. Just like all stories there are two sides to why people do what they do. To Americans the circumcision of the female genitalia seems to be wrong, cruel, and unjust. On the other hand people in other countries, such as, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Sudan this is considered something that is done as a right of passage. So as Sociologists, or students of Sociology we must look beyond what is right for one culture may not be so true in another. In order to understand the full concept of female genital mutilation I will talk about what female genital mutilation is. I will talk about how the procedure is done. I will also give detail as to the positive and negative aspects of the procedure.

The definition of female genital mutilation (FGM) is referred to as the removal of part, or all, of the female genitalia (Female Genital Mutilation). There are five different categories that fall under Female genital mutilation they are: Circumcision, Excision, Infibulation, and Intermediate infibulation (Cutting the Rose).

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Circumcision is the removal of the prepuce or the hood of the clitoris. This is the mildest of all type of mutilation (Cutting the Rose). This is the type of mutilation that can be correctly called circumcision, because it would be the equivalent to male circumcision (Cutting the Rose). The next type and a little more drastic is excision, which means partial or total cutting of the clitoris and all or part of the labia minor (Cutting the Rose). This is the most widely done of all the circumcision practices. The range of people getting this type of operation done on them is 80 percent. Infibulation is another type of circumcision. This involves the cutting of the clitoris, labia minora and at least two-thirds of the labia majora (Cutting the Rose). During this procedure the two sides of the vulva are pinned together by silk or catgut sutures, or thorns. Once this is done there is a small opening that is left so that the female will be able to pass, urine and menstrual blood. The next type of mutilation is Intermediate infibulation. It is called intermediate because it varies on the degrees of stitching. In one type the clitoris is removed and the surface of the labia minora is roughened to allow stitching. In another situation the clitoris is left intact but the labia minora are removed. In other words the insides of the labia majoa are removed and stitched with the clitoris buried underneath (Cutting the Rose).

This procedure is done to females at a variety of ages. This depends on the culture in which they are coming from. The ages range from shortly after birth, to when the female has her first pregnancy. The most common ages for most of the cultures are between the ages of four and eight. Sometimes the girls undergo this operation by themselves, but most of the time it is done with a group of close girls. An example would be sisters or other close relatives or neighbors, or is some cultures it is done on a whole group of girls in the community that are the same age (Female Genital Mutilation).

The procedure can be carried out in a couple of different places, and a couple of different people. It may be carried out in the girl’s home, or the home of a relative or neighbor. It may also be done in a health center. Different cultures designate different people to carry out this ceremony. These people range from older women, a traditional midwife, the community healer, a barber, or a qualified midwife or doctor (Female Genital Mutilation).

The tools that are used in doing this operation vary, once again on where the procedure is being done, and on what the community has been doing for years. They are usually performed with special knives. In Mali they use a saw-toothed knife (Cutting the Rose). The procedure is also done with razor blades like the ones the tribes of Sudan use, which they call a Moos el Shurfa (Cutting the Rose). Cultures also have been know to use objects such as glass or scissors, and on extremely rare occasions people have been reported of using sharp stones, burning the clitoris off, or using sharp fingernails to pluck out the clitoris of babies in some areas of Gambia (Cutting the Rose).

There are many disadvantages to this procedure as one may already have been thinking while reading this paper. There are physical side effects associated with this procedure. The most severe is death. While the female is undergoes this procedure there is pain, because in most of the societies that this is taking place, the people are not very well developed, therefore they do not know of thing like anesthesia. Also associated with the procedure are shock, hemorrhage, and damage to the organs surrounding the clitoris and labia (Female Genital Mutilation).

Dear Sir,
With Regard to your recent coverage of female circumcision, while in Malawi a couple of months ago I came across the story of a fourteen year-old girl of the Yao tribe tat inhabits land in the southern end of the country. She was diagnosed HIV-positive although she was a virgin. Blame was laid on the fact that during tribal circumcision the same razor would be used on any number of children at the same time. The solution the chief offered to take up was that in future each child was to bring its own razor (Cutting the Rose).

That passage bring me to the point that since the operators do many circumcisions at one time there is a very large likelihood that the poor girls will contract horrible diseases. Two of the most common diseases that females catch are HIV and Hepatitis B. These illnesses certainly mean death, because of the lack of adequate mediation available to them. Dr. Rosemary Mburu, A Kenyan gynecologist has estimated that 15 per cent of all circumcised females dies of bleeding or infections, and other reports show that out of every 1,000 females that undergo this procedure 70 women die as a result.

As there are those are all of the short-term effects of female circumcision, there are also problems that occur in the long-term. The most common complication of female circumcision is the lack of sensation during sexual intercourse due to the removal of the clitoral gland and the labia minora (Cutting the Rose). Further complication can also occur after the procedure is done some of the women’s vaginas become narrower than they were meant to be. This is because there is scar tissue that forms, because of accidental cuts into the vaginal wall (Cutting the Rose).

This in turn leads to painful menstruation, or otherwise referred to as dysmenorrhoea. This happens because the menstrual blood cannot flow freely. Since the vaginal hole is so small this also leads to painful intercourse. Another long-term condition that may occur is a tumor that is composed of nerve tissue, at the point of section of the dorsal nerve of the clitoris. This also leads to excruciating pain for the female that has undergone this procedure.

There are also psychological effects that occur in women that have had this procedure done to them. Several women that have been interviewed say that because this mutilation has been done to them, they have feeling of anxiety, terror, humiliation, and betrayal to the people that have done this to them (Female Genital Mutilation).

People that are pro female circumcision say that there is nothing wrong at all with this practice; in fact, they actually praise it. Carla Obermeyer, a medial anthropologist and epidemiologist at Harvard University, published a comprehensive review of the literature on female genital surgeries in Africa. She concluded that the claims of anti-FGM movements are highly exaggerated and do not match reality. By looking at 435 scholarly articles she found that most of the publications had no hard evidence, they were all critical articles by people that just did not like the procedure practiced (What about Female Genital Mutilation).

Tribes in Africa like the Okiek do not talk about female circumcision in terms of reducing sexual pleasure or desire, but they talk about it in terms of cleanliness, beauty and adulthood (What about Female Genital Mutilation). Another tribe called the Kikuyu assured Scientist Robert Edgerton that women that are circumcised continue to be orgasmic, and actually enjoy sexual intercourse. Studies also have been conducted in rural and urban Egyptian women that have had the operation done on them. Out of fifty women that were interviewed only two of them resented that they have been circumcised.

There are other notable facts about this cultural practice. For one thing, most African women do not think about circumcision in human-rights terms. Women who endorse female circumcision typically argue that it is an import part of their cultural heritage or their religion, while women who do not endorse the practice typically argue that it is not permitted by their cultural heritage or their religion.

It seems like the people that are not familiar with this ritual always try to knock it down without really knowing what is actually being done. On the other hand people that live in the societies where it is practiced embrace the event. Another survey developed by The Health department asked 3,805 if they were circumcised. 89 percent of them were. Of the women that were circumcised 96 percent of them said that they had or would have their daughters circumcised.

They also asked if they women favored the continuation of the practice, and an astonishing 90 percent of circumcised women said that they would favor continuation of the ritual (Shweder 2000).

Based on the female cultures like in Somalia and in Sudan, it is believed by women that their genital alterations actually improve their bodies. They say that the alterations make them more beautiful, more feminine, more civilized, and much more honorable (Shweder 2000).

They are more beautiful because their bodies are made smooth, and the flesh that they used to have is thought of as being ugly and odious. That is how people feel about the male penis in the United States. Most women prefer a man who is circumcised to one who was left intact.

The women fell more feminine because unmodified genitals in males as well as females are seen as sexually ambiguous. The women who answered these questions say that they have acquired full female identity, they become more social, and they receive the support of all the women in their culture (Shweder 2000).

They believe that they are more civilized because their alteration is a symbolic action that makes women have much self-control over their sexual feelings and pleasure. So that makes the process of getting married much more sacred. Finally, it is more honorable because their womb is “free from sin” (Shweder 2000).

In the cultures that practice this procedure, not only do they do this to females; they also do this to the boys in those communities as well. It symbolized a new chapter in their lives, the chapter of being brought into adulthood. The children who undergo this procedure do not dread it; in fact, they actually look forward to it. Even though it is very painful, especially when it is done with no anesthesia. They think of it as a test of courage. As for people saying that African parents do not care about their children, this is false. Who in their right mind would not love their own children? (Shweder 2000).

Without hearing both sides of the story one is quick to judge. I have to admit that when I started my research on this project, I found a lot of negative information regarding female genital mutilations, which lead me to believe that it was a horrible thing to do to these poor innocent girls. On the contrary when I found articles about whey this is done to women, which were not bias I began to believe that every culture is different and they do different things. Finally I believe that people, especially Americans should butt out of people’s lives and only worry about their own, because I am sure that there are people in other countries that do not like what the U.S. does, but they cannot say it in public because they cannot provide the news coverage like Americas can.


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