Female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation, is a traditional practice, adopted mainly in several countries in Africa but has been remained unknown for many other societies. It applies usually on young girls before their first menstruation and involves the removal of the external female genital, clitoris, either partly or completely, associated with sewing the vagina opening shut. However, in some cases, women get circumcised after their first birth giving or before getting married.The desire is to keep the value of women as well as to control female sexual desire associated with other religious beliefs and myths.
As cruel as it sounds, female circumcision could leave major health effects, both physically and mentally, on teenage girls and women. Also, this practice is maintained as a debate for humans, or women, rights and traditional customs. * What is female circumcision? Female circumcision refers to a range of procedures performed on the genitals of females of all different ages, though mainly on teenage girls aged from 4 to 12 years old before they go through puberty.It basically consists of the partially or totally removal of female external genitals. According to Alison in her article “Female Circumcision: A Critical Appraisal”, published in 1988, this practice can be classified into 4 types of circumcision (Slack, 1988). Type I is called “Sunna,” which includes the excision of clitoral prepuce, which is the outer layer of skin over the clitoris, also called “clitorishood”; however, the gland and body of the clitoris still remain intact.This procedure causes bleeding but actually is the least humiliating form of female circumcision.
To prevent bleeding, saturation and packing around the wound would help. Type II, clidoridectomy, in which the gland of the clitoris or usually the entire clitoris as well as parts or all of the labia minora is removed. Similar to the treatment for type I, packing and saturation helps . Type III, the more harsh form of female circumsion, is called infibulation which involves the removal of nearly all of the external female genitals.With this type of circumcision, a dramatic excision is performed – removing the entire clitoris and labia minora, and much or most of the labia majora is cut or scraped away. In addition, the remaining of the labia majora is sewn together, leaving only a very small opening for the flow of urine and menstrual fluid. As indicated in article “Attitudes Surrounding the Continuation of Female Circumcision in the Sudan” in Journal of Marriage and the Family, the girls’ legs need to be tied together, from fourteen to forty days, while the wound heals (Williams & Sobieszczy, 1997).
Worse than that, there is a fourth type which is unclassified by WHO, may consist of “pricking, piercing and stretching of vulvar tissue,” “incision of the clitoris and/or labia,” or “the cauterization of the clitoris and surrounding vulvar tissue” and “scraping of the vaginal orifice or cutting of the vagina” or “introduction of corrosive substances into the vagina to tighten or narrow it” (Little, 2003). * Female Circumcision Procedure: Female mutilation is usually not carried out by professional doctors or nurses but elderly women who especially got training for this procedure (Little, 2003).The girl has to lie naked on the ground, often outside, and be restrained by several women during the mutilation process. In fact, there is no such thing desired as “female circumcision appliance;” females are usually circumcised with simple tools, such as knives, razors, pieces of broken glasses and sharp stones which are not sanitized for such procedure; and anesthesia is rarely used to reduce the pain. After the operation, the bleeding of the wound is controlled by using animal dung and mud.The time of female external excision, usually twenty to thirty minutes, depends on several factors, such as the girl’s age, her reaction, and the type of circumcision and also the skills of the one who practice the excision. “The age at which girls are circumcised caries both geographically and ethnically” (Slack, 1988); it ranges from one day old to 16 years old, before the girl’s first menstruation, before her marriage, on wedding night or before or after her first birth giving depending on local or family traditional customs.As Cindy Little reported in her article about female circumcision, “Female Genital Circumcision: Medical and Cultural Considerations”, 2003, the estimate number of women who have been through female circumcision is from 114 million to 130 million (Little, 2003).
This practice is mainly adopted by African countries, such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, etc. , in which around 90% incidence of female genital mutilation in women is reported; 50% in other African countries like Nigeria, Gambia, Togo, Kenya, Mali, etc.Also, we can find this custom in some Middle East, Asian countries and perhaps in South America but not as common (Williams & Sobieszczy, 1997). There is increasing number of women, who experienced circumcision, in African communities in America. Female circumcision is usually practiced in low- economic and social-status areas in which people do not get much education, still maintain the extreme conservative view of virginity and not much respect for women. * History background of Female Circumcision The origins of female circumcision remained unknown.However, it is believed that this practice has been existed prior to any religions around 2500 years ago, originated in Africa around 5th century B. C (Little, 2003).
An analysis of female Egyptian mummies found that they were circumcised, which shows that female genital excision was already practiced at that time. Also, it was used during Victorian period in England to control women sexual desire or masturbation (Hopkins, 1999).In 1930s, removal of female external genital was adopted to treat some kinds of sexual dysfunction or variance, for instance, lesbianism, clitoral enlargement, erotomania, etc (Nour, para. ). “J. Marion Sims, the “Father of Gynecology” endorsed the practice of clitorectomies well into the 20th century. The practice of clitorectomy for psychiatric disorders became popular with Freudian psychoanalysis.
Oophorectomy, or removal of the ovaries, also known as female castration, and hysterectomies were widespread as a cure for psychological disorders and continued in the US until the mid-1940s” (Little, 2003). * Reasons for Female Circumsion Even though female circumcision existed before the foundation of any religions, research found the most common reason for this practice is religion.Indeed, this mainly refers to Islam with their strongly conservative view of female virginity; “Virginity is still considered the most precious possession of the unmarried woman. ” (Slack, 1988). Also, in many Islam countries, female sexuality is regarded as something that needs to be controlled.
Hence, removing genitals and narrow vaginal opening is believed to reduce female’s sexual sense and desire. In those societies, the virginity has an important role in determining a woman’s value and her stand among other people.Thus, female circumcision is considered to keep women charming and valuable. Tradition is another popular answer for the question why female genital excision exists and still remains in some particular countries. In a survey of 280 Nigerians about their thoughts of this practice, tradition is the reason they give most often (Slack, 1988). Another interview in Sudan with 4,500 males revealed that 87% of them agree with the performance of genital excision on female for the purpose of tradition. They just see it as a custom and there is no reason to eliminate it.
There are some more other reasons mentioned during survey about the matter of female circumcision, such as to increase male’s sexual pleasure since female external genitals are viewed as unattractive and unpleasant; to protect health of the coming babies, etc. Moreover, myths are also used as the explanation for what they do. Some believe that clitoris is a male organ and would grow into a penis if it does not get excised; that woman is naturally not clean and the only way to clean them is being circumcised; and that genital mutilation actually increases fertility, etc.These facts reflect rather clearly the lack of education in such areas implementing female circumcision. * Arguments Against Female Circumcision One of the arguments against female circumcision is health, physically and mentally, effects as a result of the procedure. Physical consequences depend on type of circumcision, knowledge and skills of exciser, sterilizing conditions of the procedure itself, etc. Short-term effects include hemorrhage, swelling, infection from unsterilized tools, outrageous pain due to the fact that anesthesia is not applied, etc.Furthermore, female circumcision can also result in death.
“Death due to female circumcision is one of the many factors that leads to the already high rates of infant mortality within these countries. It should be noted that countries with the highest rates of infant mortality correspond closely to those that continue to practice female circumcision” (Slack, 1988). Female circumcision damages female sexual organs and not only physically hurt them during the excision but also leaving various consequences in the long run.The most common type of circumcision that causes long-term complications is infibulations or type III. Many of infibulated women have to deal with chronic infection for the rest of their lives.
It can cause urinary complications as well as other widespread infections (Slack, 1988). Most of Sudan circumcised female confirmed about the difficulties they have in urination. It is said that “The average period of time required by a Pharaonically circumcised virgin to urinate is 10 to 15 minutes. She must force the urine out drop by drop. Some women reported requiring up to two hours to empty their bladders. Associated with urination problem, menstrual difficulty is another major trouble for the vagina opening sewing together.
A lot of Sudan women reported that their menstrual flow is blocked inside the body, which would lead to swelling abdomen. Moreover, with the only tiny opening, it also becomes challenging for women to engage in sexual intercourse if it is not reopened. Last but not least, circumcised women tend to have a higher risk of HIV due to the procedure with unsterilized instruments and the scars that it leaves on female genitals (Utz-Billing & Kentenich, 2008).Having been through female circumcision, female easily falls into mental crisis. It may leave them the feeling of frightening for the pain they have to handle throughout the procedure and later on (Utz-Billing & Kentenich, 2008).
Sexual productive system of anyone is considered personally and belonging to the person only; now when part of it is taken away, feeling of emptiness and inferiority comes along. Circumcised women may be put in a depression state with lack of confidence in themselves.From the survey of 47 women indicated in “Injury, physical and mental harm”, 90% cases described female circumcision as painful, threatening, horrific event in which they feel powerless. In regard of human rights, female genital mutilation is not acceptable because it “refuses the right of women from bodily harm” (Utz-Blling & Kentenich, 2008). Even female genital mutilation can be given more and more supporting reasons for itself; there is the fact that cannot be denied, which is that female circumcision tortures woman, as mentioned above, both physically and mentally. Interview/ Personal communication I interviewed one girl and one guy for their knowledge, perception as well as their attitudes and beliefs towards female circumcision. The girl’s name is Sharon from United States and the guy’s is Kelvin from Nigeria.
For the question of how much she knew about female circumcision, Sharon did not possess a clear understanding about it. Sharon heard about it before; she knew of it as a practice used on women and common among tribe fighting (S. Stark, personal communication, September 16, 2010).It was ambiguous for her what they exactly did to female but something that devalues women.
In particular, she said “A tribe would apply “female circumcision” to a woman of another tribe that they are fighting with”. Even not understanding it completely, she still thinks that it is not right; women are fragile and hurting them is the weakest behavior that people can do. After listening to explanation of what female circumcision actually does, her reaction against it became even stronger. She said she could not believe that they would do such cruel procedure to their own people.
Listening to all the reasons given for the practice of female genital mutilation, none of those are valid according to Sharon. Religion heightening the value and importance of virginity is absolutely appropriate but it is not necessary that women should be tortured or threaten in order to keep their virginity. What should have been done is to help them understand the significance of virginity; after that it is their life and they have the choice to do whatever they want. Having the understanding that it is a part of their culture and tradition, there is also right and wrong existed for her.Even if the custom has been there for thousand years, it should not be maintained when it is wrong; in this case, it basically demonstrates an violent act towards women. Indeed, she spoke of human sexuality as a precious thing that God gives to human; taking that away is definitely not acceptable, for just like taking away a part of a person. And God created women particularly in such a beautiful way that they can give life; the fact that female circumcision tends to decrease infertility makes this practice just wrong. Kelvin was born in Nigeria and has lived there for almost his entire life and just left to America two months ago.
He certainly knew of female circumcision and actually has some friends who have been through circumcised procedure. Even though it is a part of tradition from where he comes from, he totally disagrees with it. After listening to the information that I got from research, he said that it is actually not that severe at home; they remove the girls’ clitoris but no such thing as sewing the vagina opening together (K.
Igumbor, personal communication, September 13, 2010). As he knows, religion and tradition seem to be the biggest reasons for them to practice female circumcision, especially on young girls.Clitoris is considered something that stimulates a woman’s sexual desire and they want to prevent the girls from thinking about sex, which is considered “good girls. ” He believes in the value of virginity but still cannot understand why people still maintain this practice. It seems to him that the society does not think much of women. As a common sense, sexual intercourse can possibly happen only if the guy wants to and can happen even if the girl is not willing; and to prevent it, they do not do anything to males but do not mind hurting or torturing women.
As a matter of fact, he said, it is horrible because it takes away something so natural of women. In the long run, most circumcised women do not have any sexual desire or satisfaction or it is really hard for them to have an orgasm. “It is such a hard job for the guys to make circumcised girls satisfied”, said Kelvin (personal communication, September 13, 2010). * Analysis of the Interview It is interesting to receive the same opinions from two people from two different place, one in which you probably never heard of female circumcision, one in which female circumcision exists itself.From these two responses regarding to the matter, it is clear that religion is really powerful that influences how people think and what they do.
Both interviewees are Christians and learnt about the value of woman but they are certainly much more open-minded. Since living in such places with high level of individualism, Sharon seems to put the privacy and human rights in the first place. She does agree with the concept of virginity but then, it is not what society can do to keep women from sexual intercourse; it is what they can do to let women understand the importance of virginity.After that, it totally depends on what women want to do with their lives. She sees human sexuality as something really natural that God created and this genital excision act is absolutely humiliating. Also, despite of the fact that female circumcision is practiced from where he came from, Kelvin also has to oppose to that custom. Even though he could not understand the pain that circumcised women have been through, he knows that it can be listed as violence towards female.
Every single word Sharon said meant to against female circumcision.Her reaction consisted of shock of the fact, sympathy for women who have been through the pain and irritation towards people of those cultures. As a woman, she surely how much it hurts, not just physically but also psychologically dealing with all the consequences.
She could not find any considerations for this practice; “Female circumcision clearly violates woman’s rights of protecting herself from physically harm; it cannot be accepted in any circumstances” (S. Stark, personal communication, September 16, 2010). With the same disagreement, Kelvin looked at the matter in a little different angle.From a guy’s perspective, he seems confused about what the point of this practice is. It does not make any senses to prevent females from sexual activities, especially by torturing them. Human sexuality is natural for both men and women; it is really disturbing to see people try to make it become something abnormal.
And even more, they seem to blame it all on women and ignore the male part in case something unexpected happens. As a guy, Kelvin also brought up men’s difficulty related to female circumcision, which is that they find it hard to make circumcised girls reach orgasm.As we know, during intercourse, it takes longer for woman’s orgasm than man’s ejaculation. In particular to those girls who got circumcised, it actually seems hard for them to have orgasm due to all the consequences that the severe procedure leaves on them.
It could be physical pain of genitals or loss of sexual stimulating organs or mental fear. In conclusion, regardless of which culture or backgrounds you come from, female circumcision should be considered an humiliating practice which seriously take away women’s right of freedom from physically harm. It tortures female and leaves extreme pains and bodily complications as consequences. Also, it makes women feel less of femininity or confidence and probably critical feeling of fear and powerless.Works CitedHopkins, S. (1999).
A discussion of the legal aspects of female genital mutilation: Issues and innovation in Nursing Practice. Journal of Advance Nursing, 30 (4), 926-933. Igumbor, K.
(2010, September 13). Interview Little, Cindy M. (2003). Female Genital Circumcision: Medical and Cultural Considerations. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 10 (1), 30-34.
Nour, N. M. (2000).
Female circumcision and genital mutilation: A practical and sensitive approach.Contemporary OB/GYN, 45(3), 50. Slack, Alison T. , (1988). Female Circumcision: A Critical Appraisal. Human Rights Quarterly, 10 (4), 437-486. Stark, S. (2010, September 16).
Interview. Utz-Billing, I. , & Kentenich, H. (2008). Female genital mutilation: an injury, physical and mental harm. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 29 (4), 225-229.
Williams, Lindy & Sobieszczyk, Teresa. (1997). Attitudes Surrounding the Continuation of Female Circumcision in the Sudan: Passing theTradition to the Next Generation. Journal of Marriage and Family, 59 (4), 966-981