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Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation Female Genital Mutilation 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 womans 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.

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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 womens 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 a knife-like instrument reserved specifically for this purpose; after each operation she simply wipes the knife on a piece of cloth, sometimes rinsing it in water first. Before the operation takes place there is a small ceremony where the girl drinks tea and sometimes eats sweets and snacks. Afterwards, the girl is given hot porridge with butter to eat and some water to drink.

The female is operated on while in a sitting position or lying on her back with her thighs being held apart. The operator uses a cutting instrument, a collection of thorns for suturing the wound, and a powder mixture of sugar, gum, and other herbs, ashes or pulverized animal manure, which is later applied to control excessive hemorrhaging. The child is in so much pain that some have actually bitten their tongues off. If the child faints, powder is blown up her nose to revive her. When the operation is completed, usually within fifteen minutes, the wound is closed and the women present are allowed to inspect the wound to ensure that the procedure was properly completed.

Finally, the girl is sutured and the powder mixture is applied. The girl must then remain immobilized for up to three weeks in order to heal properly. In most recent cases, educated families are choosing to have the procedure done in sterile environments such as hospitals and by paramedical personnel. The child is given a local anesthesia, which reduces the pain but because the child does not struggle more unnecessary tissue is removed. This is not the final operation that these women must endure. Re-infibulation is carried out on women who are divorced or who become widowed.

When a woman marries or remarries she must be deinfibulated, enlarging the enclosed vulva. In some parts of Africa this must be done by the husband on the wedding night, using a piece of glass or wood. In the northern part of Somalia a midwife opens up the woman on her wedding night in the presence of her husbands relatives. Besides the initial pain of this operation there are long-term physiological, sexual and psychological effects. Unsanitary conditions result in infections of the genital and surrounding areas and often results in the transmission of the HIV virus. Other side effects include: hemorrhaging, shock, painful scars, keloid formation, labial adherence, clitoridal cysts, delayed menarche, genital malformation, urinary infection and pelvic infections.

When the woman is older she will most likely have gynecological and obstetric problems including sterility. In cases where death occurs the practitioner is seldom blamed. In these cases, the death is blamed on the act of an enemy, the evil spirits, or is excused as Gods will. Infibulated women experience depression, anxiety, irritability, and reduced feelings of femininity. Sexual and marital problems are very common because women become frigid and do not enjoy sexual intercourse because of the lack of nerve supply in the vaginal region. Pregnant women tend to eat less than they should because they fear their babies will grow too large to pass through the vaginal canal in a. The justifications for female genital mutilation vary from culture to culture but they all possess one central theme: to keep a woman pure and faithful.

A woman who is infibulated will be less likely to engage in pre-marital intercourse and adultery. Other reasons suggest that female genital mutilation prevents vaginal cancer, prevents nervousness and prevents the face from turning yellow. The removal of the clitoris is believed to make the face more beautiful, eliminate vaginal odors and preserve the life of her husband and child. Some believe that the clitoris is a poisonous organ which can cause a man to sicken and die upon contact. If the babys head contacts the clitoris during birth it is believed that it will be born with excess cranial fluid and the mothers milk will turn to poison.

Although female genital mutilation is illegal in some countries of Africa, this has not reduced the number of girls mutilated each year. Those who practice female genital mutilation do not report it and most of the time it occurs in remote places where the government does not have easy access. Therefore, the governments of these countries have no way of monitoring the spread and practice of female genital mutilation. Adding to these difficulties is the uncooperation of the women who seek out the operation. Women are often unwilling to change these customs because it is the way things have always been done. Going against this custom would be refusing to follow in their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts footsteps, which would bring shame against herself and tarnish her family honor.

Female genital mutilation is such a brutal and barbaric practice that it is amazing it is still occurs today. The health hazards associated with it should be enough to have it terminated. However, the reasons women have forgoing through with the operation is the custom of female genital mutilation is so engrained in their sociocultural system. The importance of family honor, virginity, chastity, purity, marriageability, and childbearing in these societies cannot be overstressed. Therefore in the minds of the people who adhere to this belief, the benefits gained from this operation for the girl and her family far outweigh any potential danger. Social Issues.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation
Imagine a young girl; the harsh African sun is kissing her bronzed skin. The warm golden sand tickles her petite and tattered feet. The immense gold earrings she wears beats against her slender neck. Her stature is of a queen, yet she walks to an uncertain death. She stands in front of a small hut, or a tent. She glances back and sees the majestic sun that had once kissed her neck now set and somewhat leave her abandoned. She exists alone in front of that diminutive hut or tent and out comes a man. He is exhausted and is ready to go home to his companion and his supper. He looks a bit annoyed that she has come so late. His hands are stained with a ruby tint and his clothes the same. He motions the young girl in. Hesitantly, she makes small and meager steps to the entranceway. She steps into a minute room with little or no lighting. She stares upon two women and a rusty table that holds the screams of the girls that went before her. The man motions her to sit in the table. She slowly places her body on the stained and rusty table. She is a bit afraid that the table will not hold under her weight; nevertheless, she is held up. The man places his cold and clammy hands on her collarbone and pushes her back to the table. As she lies there she looks to her left and sees his instruments; a bloody and rusty razor blade. She sighs with relief. She has heard that a razor blade is the best instrument to use. She knew of women that had to take a piece of glass. She has prayed for courage and strength, yet it does not seem to arrive. The man runs his hands down the sides of her body. Has he pushes her skirt up he looks at her and says to her, “Don’t move.” He opens her legs and begins to operate. The glare from the poor lighting obstructs his view, but he continues any way. The heat has gotten to him and he is not as awake as he was in the morning. He blinks to regain some concentration and he takes his blade in his hands. He thinks about cleaning the blade first but the thought immediately escapes from his mind. He does not want to waste any more time on this girl. The young girl sees the man raise his blade and she begins to squirm. With their hands, the women hold her legs to gain sight of his target. As the sun finally sets and the night creeps upon them, the earth and all its inhibitors are disrupted by a shrill. The screams bellow out into the night and echoes in the stars. Moments later the young girl stumbles out of the hut or tent. She is now a woman. Imagine this happening to over 100 million women around the world.
This is called Female Genital Mutilation or FGM. It is an invasive procedure performed on girls before puberty. Part or all the clitoris is surgically removed leaving them with reduced or no sexual feeling. FGM is very emotional because many women do not have the confidence to talk about their feelings and what happens to them during the circumcision. The stories that some women have are very gruesome and extremely painful. Yet if the procedure is not done, the women have to live with being called names and being rejected. The term FGM covers three main varieties of genital mutilation: Sunna circumcision, Clitoridectomy, and Infibulation. Sunna in Arabic means “tradition” and the Sunna circumcision consists of the removal of the prepuce and/or the tip of the clitoris. Clitoridectomy, which is also call excision, is the removal of the entire clitoris (both prepuce and glans), and the removal of the adjacent labia. Infibulation is also called pharaonic circumcision. This is the most extreme form and it involves removal of the clitoris, the adjacent labia (majora and minora), and the joining of the scraped sides of the vulva across the vagina, where they are secured with thorns or sewn with catgut or thread. A small opening is kept to allow passage of urine and menstrual blood. An infibulated woman must be cut open to allow intercourse on the wedding night and is closed again afterwards to secure fidelity to the husband.

Though FGM is practiced all over the world, it is most prevalent in Africa. According to the State-Agency for International development’s Intra-Agency working Group on Female genital mutilation, at least forty percent of Nigerian women are victims of FGM. In Africa it is practiced in the majority of the continent including Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mozambique, and Sudan. A variety of forms of FGM is practiced in Middle Eastern countries: the two Yemens, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Southern Algeria. FGM has found its way into the United States and Europe because of immigration. Although FGM is illegal in these countries, the ritual is being practiced secretly. Some claim that FGM is a religious tradition, however, there has been no proof from both of the dominant religions, which is Christian and Muslim. In most African countries the reason for the practice of FGM has nothing to do with inter-sexuality, but more of traditional beliefs.

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The process is done in unsanitary conditions in which a midwife uses unclean sharp instruments such as razor blades, scissors, kitchen knives, and pieces of glass. These instruments are frequently used on several girls in succession and rarely cleaned, causing the transmission of variety of viruses such as the HIV virus, and other infections. Antiseptics techniques and anesthesia are generally not used, or for that matter, heard of. This is just like your doctor uses one instrument on all of patients without any sterilization procedure. Besides of the obvious initial pains of the operations, FGM has long-term physical, sexual, and psychological effects. The unsanitary environment under which FGM takes place causes infections of the genital area and surrounding areas. Some can have primary fatality as a result of shock, hemorrhage or septicemia. Long-term consequences are sexual fidgety, genital malformation, delayed menarche, chronic pelvic complications, recurrent urinary retention and infection, and an entire range of obstetric complications where the fetus is exposed to a range of infectious diseases as well as facing the risk of having its head crushed in the damaged birth canal. In these cases, an infibulated woman is opened further to insure a safe birth of her child.
In various cultures there are “justifications” for practicing the dangerous practice. A girl who is not circumcised is considered “unclean” by the local villagers and by that is not worthy of marriage. A girl that does not have her clitoris removed is considered a great danger and ultimately fatal to a man if her clitoris touches his penis. Some have said, “She loses only a little piece of the clitoris, just the part that protrudes. The girl does not miss it. There is hardly any pain. Women’s pain thresholds are so much higher than men’s.” Others have said, “The parts that are cut away are disgusting and hideous to look at. It is done for the beauty of the suture.” Many women of the local villages that FGM takes place say that it is a tradition and they do not want to be the ones to break a tradition. Family honor, cleanliness, protection against spells, insurance of virginity and faithfulness to the husband, or simply terrorizing women out of sex are sometimes used as excuses for the practices of FGM.

This practice has been committed for years now. It was said to begin in the Egyptian times and has grown from there. About two million women a year undergo a knife, a shard or a piece of broken glass to uphold this barbaric tradition. Of this shocking number, fifteen percent will die as a direct result of this practice. Of those that survive, they will have to live with infections, hemorrhaging, bladder, kidney, and urinary disorders, extreme complications during intercourse and birth and a loss of sexual sensitivity.
I decided to talk about this because this is something that I can relate deeply too. No, I am not a victim of Female genital mutilation, but I am a female and just the mere contemplation of this excruciating practice happening to someone my age is heartbreaking. I was first introduced to this problem when I was a junior in high school. We did a segment on traditions throughout the world, and genital mutilation came up. I became interested in the female aspect of genital mutilation. I was reintroduced to the subject of female genital mutilation my first year in college. I worked in the media resource center and a young woman was also interested in FGM. We exchanged information and from then on I have been passionate about the subject. To think that somewhere in this world, even after all of the technology that we have experienced and discovered, a dangerous and painful unsanitary pr5actice is actually being practice is very sad. I honestly believe that official across the world should pay close attention to this tradition that is hurting at least two million women a year and killing fifteen percent of that two million. These women are our mothers, our friends, our daughters, our sisters, or they can even be us. I understand that it is important to hold on to traditions and keep the roots of your ancestors close at hand, but we must consider a different approach once the tradition starts taking away women across the world. Studying this has opened my eyes and made me realize that the world is still grieving and searching for justice. I hope soon that the world finds it.


I'm Lily

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