Body, Culture, Editorials, Education, Gender, Relationships, Religion, Society — January 5, 2013 at 10:55 am

Female Circumcision: Man Myths and Mutilation

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Writhing in pain, a young girl undergoes female circumcision.

The word circumcise is defined as ‘the cutting off of the prepuce or clitoris’.  This age-old practice of mutilating the genitals was originally thought to be a religious rite, but nothing could be further from the truth. The history of both male and female circumcision can be traced as far back as the early 1800’s. As myths and scant documentation would have it, the procedure was performed on boys as a symbol of the covenant between the Jews and God. Another tale from the past is one of a young boy that came to the doctor, pale and wan, with severe infections for his foreskin had become so constraining that it actually had strangled his penis by cutting off the blood flow.  From this point on, male circumcision has evolved into a minor medical procedure to promote cleanliness.  In today’s global society, male circumcision has become an elective procedure.

Female circumcision, however, is not the equivalent of male circumcision in terms of its short and long-term effects.  To begin with it is much more brutal.  It is a forceful and non-elective procedure for an entirely different reason than to ‘promote cleanliness.’  And sadly for these women and girls, the ability to experience an orgasm may be permanently affected, particularly in cases when the clitoris is completely removed, as it is in most cases.  For this reason, it’s questionable whether the term circumcision is even appropriate; mutilation is a more apt description.

In other parts of the globe far, far away from the civilization of the States, female circumcision is prominent and far from elective!  This procedure has been defined by the World Health Organization as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” For over 2000 years, the practice of female circumcision (or FGM for female genital mutilation) has been widely practiced in 28 countries including the Africa countries of Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Somalia.  The statistics are more shocking than one in a civilized world can imagine.  Over 92 million women and girls in Africa and over 140 million immigrant communities in the Middle East and Europe have or have had this procedure done.

Click pic. to enlarge

What is FGM?

The circumcisions are carried out by the circumciser known as the “gedda” by use of a knife-like instrument or a piece of sharpened glass under extremely unsanitary conditions such as a dirt hut or in the bush, and is performed with no anesthesia.

There of 4 types of FGM that is commonly practiced:

Type I involves the removal of clitoral hood.

Type II is the removal of clitoral hood and the clitoris.

Type III is the removal of the clitoris and the inner labia (the labia minora).

Type IV (not shown in diagram) is the removal of the complete vulva area including the labia majora by inserting the cutting instrument from the root of clitoris and making two quick slices down each side of the vulva, leaving only a small tube opening and a small hole for the drainage of urine and menstrual blood.

Once the procedure has been done there is profuse bleeding.  The remaining skin is stitched together with thorny branches of a nearby tree.  A twig is then inserted to allow for urine and menstrual blood to flow out after which the girl’s legs are tied and splinted shut for 4 to 6 weeks of healing.

The first question that comes to mind is, “Why???”

In certain tribal societies, women who are not circumcised are not considered “clean”, even enough to carry water or handle the food.  It is also believed, the clitoris is a “male” body part; and that by removing the clitoris, it will also remove the sexual desires that would distract the woman from being a good mother.  It is also believed that the clitoris is dangerous if it touches the baby’s head during childbirth.  In these tribal countries, female circumcision is not elective, and to not be “cut” would ostracize them from the tribe, a fate worse than death.

The average age of an African woman is about 33 years; so at 16, a young girl is already considered middle-aged and will usually marry by the age of 10.  The circumcision, or this rite of passage into woman hood, is performed somewhere around the ages of 8 to 14, and sometimes as young as 4 years of age. It is usually accompanied by a ceremony and performed on small groups of girls in the bush.  The girls are dressed in white so that it absorbs the blood as evidence of their passage into womanhood.  They never know when it is their time; but they know it will be their time at some point.

After the marriage, the wound is then re-opened to allow for intercourse and childbirth. The future husband will examine his new wife’s body before the ceremony as approval that his new wife is pure and untouched.  On the wedding night, the wound is cut open to allow for intercourse. After impregnation occurs, the woman is again sealed shut until childbirth when it will be cut open for a third time.  Some men try to open the wound themselves by making a series of “tiny cuts” until the opening is big enough to insert the penis.

The medical repercussions of all this is horrific!  The spread of Hepatitis is rampant from using the same tools from girl to girl to girl.  There are severe, numerous infections.  There is no accountability for death.  Invariably, girls bleed to death or die from infection; but no one knows.  They are just hauled off into the bush.  Who is going to miss them? Anal sex is prevalent producing extremely high rates of HIV.

Are these practices going to change? NO!  Since 1979, there have been numerous consorted efforts to change or stop FGM by several organizations; but the cultural aspects of the practice makes opposition a questionable one. Government intervention is nearly nil. This rite of passage has been practiced for over 2000 years and the only hope for change is education, and that will take centuries to come full circle, if ever.  What is more of a concern is the infiltration of Africa

women immigrants making their way into other countries and bringing their customs with them.  Some countries have made practicing FGM a felony.  Even in America, it is a known fact that high school girls of African tribal heritage are cutting each other in secrecy with razor blades in the attempt to preserve the tribal commitment and unity.

I wish to thank the African missionary lady who allowed me to interview her on this subject.  One point that she made as we ended our conversation was how enjoyable it is to have “circle time” with the women there.  She made it a point to bring to light that these women live for the day and are at peace with the simplicity of their lives.  She also went on to tell me that ironically, one of the main questions they ask her is, “What is like to have sex with an American man?”

For more information or to become actively involved, please contact your local women’s-rights group or click the link The Giving Circle to find out how you can donate.  Education means everything!

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33 Comments

  1. Humans are more beastly than any animal on earth.

  2. They perform this on young girls, yes? I’m not reading the article, because I’ve read or heard about it several times before; but it’s a horrible, barbaric practice. It makes me sick.

  3. This makes my skin crawl everytime I read about it. As a feminist and amateur-philosophizer of paganism, I believe that feminity and sexuality are two things very important to a human being. The act of removing ones sexuality and enforcing a stereotypical gender-identity is like breaking a porcelain vase in pieces and glue it into a cup. Cold, ugly and inhuman.
    Worst part is, muslim preachers from the Eastern countries are now traveling to my home country and are imposing their version of the Islam to the people here. Suddenly we can’t eat at certain places because of the religion of people working their or women are treated different, more cold and inferior. And they’re also preaching the circumcision of women as something benevolent and good.
    Anytime I conjure the image of a blade coming near a genitalia I just shrink and hurt.

  4. This confirms to me that some nations are far from civilized. Have heard of this but never with this much detail. There are no words for this type of …..I can’t even think of a word that conveys the horror and barbarism of this act.

  5. Whew! Difficult to read and even moreso to see the pictures. Good article though – hope I don’t have nightmares.

  6. I’ve read on this many times and I am always at a loss for words. It’s barbaric and there is really no reason for these young girls to have to go through such torture.

    Every time I read about this subject, I just wish I could save some of those girls from the pain that is going to be inflicted upon them. 🙁

  7. It is no different from male circumcision at birth, with them getting no choice in the matter or pain relief. I don’t know what the problem with all these comments are. That is their culture, just because it is different doesn’t make it wrong.

    • To Scott: Just because it is their culture doesn’t make it right. I deal with these women in a daily basis. They are expected to have sex and not have orgasms. It is painful to have sex without pleasure. It is painful to give birth and have sex right after your vulva was cut open (again). Women are some forces to have sex and make babies without vulva, which normally stretches during childbirth, and without clitoris. Would you imagine that it is fun to have dry and painful sex repeatedly without pleasure? It is a sick cultural tradition, and it is maintained because it is an industry, women are paid to perform the mutilations, and because it is a sick culture of male domination, with keeping women “out of the streets” and “pure” by preventing them from desiring sex. It is tribal in origin but it is also influenced by Islam and male circumcision rites. The equivalent to this in males would be to remove the entire glands head of the penis, and nothing can replicate the pain of childbirth or the uncleanness of having a period or bodily function with the vulva cut and healed closed. Also, this is done without sterilization, HIV, Hepatitis, and other infections and death are common. They do this without parental consent, to infants to teenagers, often resulting in death. It’s a sick culture perpetrated by psychological warfare, and the same type of forces that motivate Americans to mutilate their baby boss with male circumcision, only add violence and economic devastation to those who resist. Plus, having it done is a free path toward US Citizenship via Asylum. As long as we keep rewarding it, through our odd legal system which gives the victims a free greencard, it will never die.

  8. ‎-.- aand what about male genital mutilation?? I suppos its quite fine to mutilate our little boys?
    “a very disturbing practice still being performed in certain parts of the world today.”
    Male Circumcision still goes on in ALL western countries, and you don’t hear any uproar about this…why?
    I am cut, my boyfriend is not. WE know how much sensation i have lost, and how for any cut man, the sexual act is deviated into a battle with ones self, instead of the loving act of togetherness it should be.

    http://www.foreskin-restoration.net/forum/showthread.php?t=10088

    Yes bring awareness of circumcision to the light… but don’t you dare limit it to a women’s only topic.
    😛

  9. I like how the author says that the male circumcision isn’t comparable because its not a forceful and non-elective procedure. I don’t know when anyone asked a baby boy if he elected to have it done. I strongly feel both are mutilation and barbaric. I have been aware of this practice ever since I read,Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker as a teen. After reading the book I promised myself that no child of mine would have there genitalia mutilated! BOY OR GIRL. The reaction from some about my son having his foreskin is equally sick and disturbing. I have been told I have narrowed his playing field because woman do not have sex with non circumcised men, and my son is dirty. I lol at all the ignorant uneducated responses.

    • Only 1/7 of the world perform male circumcision, but here in America, it’s big business supported by myth and psychological brainwashing, we are constantly told that circumcised penis is normal and good looking, while natural penis is somehow not. Meanwhile, no one ever discusses the numerous botched circumcisions and the devastation they can cause, but we do hear about young boys of friends and family having to go back to fix small errors. . . Never hearing the full story.

  10. That is horrendous…. poor little kids…

  11. Female circumcision (genital mutilation) is more like the removal of the head of the penis.

  12. at least in male circumcision an orgasm is still possible, and sex isnt horrificly painful. at least they arent sewn together until its “time” to get pregnant, cut open for extremely painful sex, and sewn back up until childbirth.

  13. I was hoping that this practice had stopped by now. I guess I was wrong. 🙁

  14. So some of you people seem to think there is no difference between male and female circumcision.

    ACTUALLY: Female circumcision is VERY different from male circumcision. In the male, it is only the removal of the foreskin, meaning the male still retains feeling. It is also FAR less painful, because the foreskin is NOT a bundle of nerve endings.

    Imagine getting the head of your dick chopped off.

    THAT is the equivalent to FEMALE CIRCUMCISION.

    Part of the POINT of the process is so girls lose the feeling, because female sexual pleasure is unimportant to these animals, as well as sometimes being a “sin”.

    It’s all a disgrace in this age of advanced science, medicine and technology… but then again, no matter how contradictory reality is to ANY belief system, they persist like the cancers they are because humans just aren’t ready to really evolve beyond our primitive selves yet.

  15. Those poor girls and women..what the s***

  16. Female circumcision is mutilation, plain & simple. Have signed many petitions supposedly going to governments in areas that practice it to try & make it stop.

  17. ‎@Drag and holly, do you not think cutting the foreskin off using no anesthetic and then having that cut sit in diapers full of urine not painful. As well their are numerous times to much is cut causing sexual problems and even some babies have died because of bleeding and infection. So I ask you why? because some think it looks nicer? I dare you to make a cut at the end of your dick”as you like to call it” and then sit in your own piss as it heals and get back to me!

    • ‎@ C. Herda …. Good GOD woman ! Of COURSE male circumcision is not the same. I don’t say it is painless & I agree that it is a barbaric & pointless tradition . .. BUT … To compare it to the extensive mutilation of the whole of the vulva being sliced off & the clitoris being removed & then being repeatedly sown up & cut open is to diminish what is by anyone’s definition an abomination. To declare them the same is to confuse two very different practises.
      The mutilation of the female genitalia is a very widespread practise , one that still continues & is spreading in many Islamic countries. The severe , and sometimes deadly, health complications that can follow with menstruation & childbirth are horrendous . Not to mention the damage that often occurs to the Urethra often resulting in severe bladder infections & incontinence which then leads to banishment from the community & severe poverty as no one will help these poor women.
      This practice is happening everywhere , not only in Africa .. it happens in the States too !
      Instead of having a pointless discussion about which is more painful we should be outraged that this happens at all .
      For the record I agree wholeheartedly that male circumcision is a barbaric & painful tradition too .

  18. Both female AND male circumcision are forms of sexual assault on our children and they both are equally as sick. One is just more culturally accepted than the other.

  19. When I was in Haiti in November with Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, they spoke at length in nightly “fireside chats” about the work “The Carter Center” does around the world. Rosalyn is very involved in women’s rights issues, chief among them, female genital mutilation. She said they are making progress but, it’s slow undoing centuries of men’s dominance and control in primitive and not so primitive cultures across the African continent.

  20. this from same country that believes raping a baby will cure AIDS ……its a long long road! I have read about f.c. and damn near fainted from the hellish desciption..!!!

  21. This is so gross and appalling. But, the article is rife with misconceptions and myths about male circumcision. Male circumcision also has far-reaching affects on men’s sexuality and ability to orgasm. The female clitoris is a large organ that surrounds the vagina with only a small pea-sized portion showing on the outside. The circumcised females, then, can receive sexual pleasure, just lessened-same as circumcised males. Most newborn boys do not receive any or at least not enough anesthetic, same as most of the girls. The newborn boys suffer permanent brain changes from the trauma, as evidenced by a couple of studies. Proponents of female circumcision also claim it is cleaner and more hygienic. This is not true for circumcision for either sex. The parallels are considerable and equally disturbing, IMO– but to us Americans, one has been normalized, one has not.

    • @Caitlin – I don’t know what you meant to write, but the clitoris, in most women is small, with less than 1 inch (or 2.5 cm) externally showing and is about 4″ (10.16 cm) in total length, with it branching into two forks (the crura). Most of a clitoris is root. It serves only ONE purpose, sexual arousal. It spongy and is densely packed with nerve endings and when removed (called a “clitoredectomy”) if the pudendal nerve is cut, there is no way for a woman to be sexually satisfied. And data regarding male circumcision is conflicting – there is, to the best of my knowledge – no clear data on actual damage done to men who have foreskin removed nor is there clear data on the health benefits and risks. Here’s a shocker for everyone – vulvaplasties and vaginoplasties occur roughly 5 times a day in the US – under the guise of “medically necessary” surgery to Intersexed individuals. These surgeries often result in pudendal nerves being cut or patients complaining about dimisihed or crippled sexual capacity, all for the reason of making an Intersexed individual “normal” and in fact NOT medically necessary – so before we call another culture “barbaric” or “primitive” we should be looking at our own culture: http://www.accordalliance.org/ or ISNA.org. — The saddest part of this is that FGM shows no signs of decreasing or stopping (at least in Africa). incredibly sad.

  22. Male and Female citcumcision is a horror…but more males than females suffer this EVERY day and EVERY year. It needs to be stopped for BOTH genders!

    • Sean – not to trivialize male circumcision, but female “circumcision” in most cases is far, far worse – the equivalent of cutting off your penis entirely, and sewing your mouth shut except for one small hole.

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  25. I am not surprised this is news to you. You are more concerned about the acceptance of gay marriage or whether the N word is offensive than whether tens of thousands of people are killed, mutilated or tortured around the world. So DUHHHH, you idiots, get a clue. Oh yeah, the MUSLIMS do this in case you weren’t sure. Yes, Islam, the religion of peace and kindness. So please don’t confuse with the Christians, Jews or Buddhists. They don’t mutilate little girls. OK? Remember, its the MUSLIMS that mutilate children.

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