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Female Genital Mutilation
By: Anonymous

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 pharaonic circumcision, is the most extreme
form. The clitoris is removed as well as the adjacent labia and
the scraped sides of the vulva are joined across the vagina.
The sides are secured with thorns or sewn with catgut or
thread, allowing a small opening for the passage of urine and
menstrual blood. Female genital mutilation is often compared
to male circumcision. Both procedures remove all or part of
the functioning genitalia and both seek to control the body and
sexuality. However, this is where the similarities end. All
comparisons aside female circumcision is far more drastic and
damaging both physically and psychologically. A more
precise analogy would be between a clitoridectomy and
penisdectomy where the entire penis is removed. The
traditional performers of the circumcision and the age at which
it is performed vary among the different African ethnic
groups. The majority are village midwives who perform these
operations for a living and enjoy a position of status in the
village. Others who perform the operation include gypsies and
fortunetellers. These women’s knowledge of anatomy and
hygiene are minimal. The tools they use to operate with are
rarely sterilized and include knives, razor blades, scissors, and
in some cases sharp stones and pieces of broken glass. These
instruments are used on several girls in succession without
being sterilized and the patient is rarely given anesthesia.
Circumcision among the Yoruba occurs one week after birth
while in Ethiopia girls are operated on after they are forty days
old. In Somalia individuals or groups of girls are operated
when they are between the ages of five and eight. In Kenya,
many girls are circumcised between the ages of eleven and
fifteen while in the Ivory Coast the operations are performed
as a village puberty rite. In midwestern Nigeria operations
occur before the birth of the first child. In the Mossi area of
Burkin Faso, group circumcisions are held every three years
for girls between the ages of five and eight. Girls line up with
their mothers each waiting their turn. Meanwhile, the
circumcisor “uses