Female circumcision otherwise known as female genital mutilation can be defined as the amputation of the clitoris, part of it or the entire external organs of a woman’s genital organ as a custom by certain cultural or religious backgrounds in Africa and parts of Asia. Female circumcision has varying procedures which are brutal and enforced. It is done by non-medically qualified mothers and who must have undergone the same. The girl is forced and held down by other women and stripped naked.
She is then circumcised using sharp tools that range from knives, razor blades, scissors to hazardous equipments like broken glasses and tin lids. These equipments are usually sterilized with salt or not. The girl is then released or stitched and attends other rituals which are often humiliating including a forced sexual intercourse with a man. She is not supposed to cry all along to demonstrate her maturity. There are three methods of female circumcision; the sunna circumcision where the hood and the tip of the clitoris is amputated.
The clitoridectomy involves the full amputation of the clitoris and the labia and the infibulations which involves the amputation of the entire external organs of the genital organ; then stitching is done leaving behind a small hole for urine flow and menstruation. (Heitman) Some African and Asian communities are still circumcising their women. In recent years some cultures are fading this away due to anti-FGM pressures as well as civilization.
Communities that practice female circumcision include: Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria, some Central African communities Egypt, Ethiopian communities, Somalia, Sudan, some Kenyan tribes like the Meru, Kalenjin, Abagusii, Maasai, the Middle East among Afro-Arabs, some communities in South America and Indonesia. Some Muslim communities also practice female circumcision. The main reason for FGM common to all is a right of passage marking a translation from childhood to adulthood. Other reasons are: circumcising women reduces sexual desires which prevent them from pre and post marriage sexual behaviors.
Some communities assume that, if these organs of a woman are not amputated, they might disrespect the men as those organs resemble the male parts. Others associate the clitoris to a cause for difficult births or children death and also male death. Some argues that it even make women unclean contaminating the breast milk or making them unfit to handle food and water. Some believe that by circumcising women virginal odors are reduced and STDs and other related diseases are blocked. (Heitman) There are theories that exist among Arab communities that circumcision prevents HIV/AIDS and penile cancer.
They believe that the uncircumcised get AIDS easily. This is the latest reason justifying circumcision in women (Abusharaf, 69-70) Some performs it for fear that women would outdo them when having sexual intercourse. There are beliefs that circumcised women are less shy, more composed, very mature and more beautiful. Among the Muslims, they believe FGM is a cleansing rite defining a woman as a Muslim qualifying her in religious participation. They also believe it is a prophetic requirement present in the Quran (Duncan & Hemlund 219-220)
While FGM may look worthless, some proponents argue that it has an effect on the health of a woman. It makes women more responsible and mature and reduces prostitution as it kills sexual urges. It is a cultural practice like any other which uniquely defines a certain community. However, the procedures need to be life and health friendly. Every society has the intrinsic traits which are vital and essential to its cultural heritage. These traits include the strong beliefs and practices like female circumcision. Many communities still practicing this find it hard to assimilate civilization on such traits.
The Maasai of Kenya are very resistant to civilization and still practice this. Religious beliefs also have a role why FGM is still rampant in some as it still monitor and protect this. The Abagusii girls of Kenya are not forced but they do it as a personal choice. They feel more mature and responsible having circumcised. Other communities still force their girls into this. They are very young to resist their mothers will. In some tribes like the Yoruba of Nigeria, they are too young barely 2 weeks old to even know what is happening. The position of women in some tribes like among Somalia is very low.
The men make all the decisions and are usually biased in their opinions against women who have little or nothing to questions. They advocate the most humiliating methods the infibulations. Female circumcisions have generated a lot of debates and concern internationally about its moral worth especially in its cruelty, its civil rights violation and exposure to girl’s health risks. It is a very painful process that exposes girls to risk of contagious diseases like AIDS. Many anti FGM and gender movements have emerged and which have had an effect against this for instant Women International Network (WIN) is an international body against this.
The Western governments, UN, WHO among others have enacted prohibiting laws on FGM and have campaigned against through provision of medical literature and developing agendas on human rights. Colonialist came with their westernized culture and civilization that influenced some indigenous cultures resulting to the end of this. The missionaries in Africa assimilated the Christianity that opposes FGM. Education is a key to civilization and modernization. It most literate communities, FGM is eliminated. Urbanization and assimilation in multi-ethnic have significantly ended this.
Evidently, circumcision rates among the young families, the urbanized families and the educated in Kenya are minimal comparing to the rural, the aged and the primitive counterparts. (Nnaemke 116) While it is true that a lot has been done against this practice, much effort needs to be put especially in educating the girl child. Most of these communities lack essential human rights knowledge and need to be informed that; while cultural traits uniquely define a particular people, some are erosion to human rights and gender equality. Work cited:
Heitman, R. Female Genital Mutilation. Tripod 2000. Retrieved on Thursday, December 04, 2008 from, http://members. tripod. com/~Wolvesdreams/FGM. html Abusharaf, M. R. Female Circumcision: Multicultural Perspectives: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007; 69-70 Hernlund, Y & Shell-Duncan, B. Female “circumcision” in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001; 219-220 Nnaemeka, O. Female Circumcision and the Politics of Knowledge: African Women in Imperialist Discourses: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005; 112-120