Female circumcision : A guide to Circumcision

This guide is dedicated to male circumcision but we have included a section on female circumcision as well. This is a subject which some people find abhorrent but others view as an essential part of their culture.

Female circumcision or as others term it ‘female genital mutilation’is practised in some African groups and in the Middle East and is usually performed as an initiation ceremony.

Why is it performed?

This is carried out as a means of ensuring that the girl (or woman) is clean and pure before marriage. It is also performed as a rite of passage and as a statement of belonging to a society.

Circumcision is often performed on both boys and girls as an initiation into adult society. This is still practised in certain areas of the world, e.g. Africa.

Supporters of this practice argue that it prepares a girl physically and mentally for the hardships of adult life. They also see it as a hygienic practice in that the ‘dirty’ part of the female genitals is removed which ensures that the girl is clean and retains her ‘honour’ before her wedding night.

What does it involve?

It involves cutting some or the entire clitoris but in certain cases it can also include stitching up the labia (external part of the female genitals). This leaves a tiny hole for urination, menstruation and sexual intercourse which can require further surgery later on to widen this opening.

It can be performed by a midwife but in many others cases it is carried out without any anaesthesia.

It is usually performed on young girls aged between three and ten years old.

Opposition to female circumcision

To its supporters it has cultural and religious significance; but its detractors argue that it is a highly painful and barbaric practice which is also unnecessary. They also argue that it violates the rights of women and girls as well as causing long term physical damage.

Complications of female circumcision include:

  • Bleeding
  • Abscesses
  • Loss of sensation especially during sexual intercourse
  • Septicaemia
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Painful periods
  • Cysts
  • Chronic pelvic infections
  • Increased risk of infertility
  • Increased risk of complications during pregnancy

These are the physical aspects but there is also the psychological trauma to consider.

Opponents of this practice call for a worldwide ban but this is not as easy as it sounds. There is the risk of forcing this practice underground as well as the religious/cultural implications.

It would be difficult to enforce a ban in communities where this practice is accepted by both men and women.

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