Two million girls are subjected to female genital mutilation in the name of tradition every year (Win News). That is a large amount of females that undergo this procedure. Just like all stories there are two sides to why people do what they do. To Americans the circumcision of the female genitalia seems to be wrong, cruel, and unjust. On the other hand people in other countries, such as, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Sudan this is considered something that is done as a right of passage. So as Sociologists, or students of Sociology we must look beyond what is right for one culture may not be so true in another. In order to understand the full concept of female genital mutilation I will talk about what female genital mutilation is. I will talk about how the procedure is done. I will also give detail as to the positive and negative aspects of the procedure.
The definition of female genital mutilation (FGM) is referred to as the removal of part, or all, of the female genitalia (Female Genital Mutilation). There are five different categories that fall under Female genital mutilation they are: Circumcision, Excision, Infibulation, and Intermediate infibulation (Cutting the Rose).
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Circumcision is the removal of the prepuce or the hood of the clitoris. This is the mildest of all type of mutilation (Cutting the Rose). This is the type of mutilation that can be correctly called circumcision, because it would be the equivalent to male circumcision (Cutting the Rose). The next type and a little more drastic is excision, which means partial or total cutting of the clitoris and all or part of the labia minor (Cutting the Rose). This is the most widely done of all the circumcision practices. The range of people getting this type of operation done on them is 80 percent. Infibulation is another type of circumcision. This involves the cutting of the clitoris, labia minora and at least two-thirds of the labia majora (Cutting the Rose). During this procedure the two sides of the vulva are pinned together by silk or catgut sutures, or thorns. Once this is done there is a small opening that is left so that the female will be able to pass, urine and menstrual blood. The next type of mutilation is Intermediate infibulation. It is called intermediate because it varies on the degrees of stitching. In one type the clitoris is removed and the surface of the labia minora is roughened to allow stitching. In another situation the clitoris is left intact but the labia minora are removed. In other words the insides of the labia majoa are removed and stitched with the clitoris buried underneath (Cutting the Rose).
This procedure is done to females at a variety of ages. This depends on the culture in which they are coming from. The ages range from shortly after birth, to when the female has her first pregnancy. The most common ages for most of the cultures are between the ages of four and eight. Sometimes the girls undergo this operation by themselves, but most of the time it is done with a group of close girls. An example would be sisters or other close relatives or neighbors, or is some cultures it is done on a whole group of girls in the community that are the same age (Female Genital Mutilation).
The procedure can be carried out in a couple of different places, and a couple of different people. It may be carried out in the girl’s home, or the home of a relative or neighbor. It may also be done in a health center. Different cultures designate different people to carry out this ceremony. These people range from older women, a traditional midwife, the community healer, a barber, or a qualified midwife or doctor (Female Genital Mutilation).
The tools that are used in doing this operation vary, once again on where the procedure is being done, and on what the community has been doing for years. They are usually performed with special knives. In Mali they use a saw-toothed knife (Cutting the Rose). The procedure is also done with razor blades like the ones the tribes of Sudan use, which they call a Moos el Shurfa (Cutting the Rose). Cultures also have been know to use objects such as glass or scissors, and on extremely rare occasions people have been reported of using sharp stones, burning the clitoris off, or using sharp fingernails to pluck out the clitoris of babies in some areas of Gambia (Cutting the Rose).
There are many disadvantages to this procedure as one may already have been thinking while reading this paper. There are physical side effects associated with this procedure. The most severe is death. While the female is undergoes this procedure there is pain, because in most of the societies that this is taking place, the people are not very well developed, therefore they do not know of thing like anesthesia. Also associated with the procedure are shock, hemorrhage, and damage to the organs surrounding the clitoris and labia (Female Genital Mutilation).
With Regard to your recent coverage of female circumcision, while in Malawi a couple of months ago I came across the story of a fourteen year-old girl of the Yao tribe tat inhabits land in the southern end of the country. She was diagnosed HIV-positive although she was a virgin. Blame was laid on the fact that during tribal circumcision the same razor would be used on any number of children at the same time. The solution the chief offered to take up was that in future each child was to bring its own razor (Cutting the Rose).
That passage bring me to the point that since the operators do many circumcisions at one time there is a very large likelihood that the poor girls will contract horrible diseases. Two of the most common diseases that females catch are HIV and Hepatitis B. These illnesses certainly mean death, because of the lack of adequate mediation available to them. Dr. Rosemary Mburu, A Kenyan gynecologist has estimated that 15 per cent of all circumcised females dies of bleeding or infections, and other reports show that out of every 1,000 females that undergo this procedure 70 women die as a result.
As there are those are all of the short-term effects of female circumcision, there are also problems that occur in the long-term. The most common complication of female circumcision is the lack of sensation during sexual intercourse due to the removal of the clitoral gland and the labia minora (Cutting the Rose). Further complication can also occur after the procedure is done some of the women’s vaginas become narrower than they were meant to be. This is because there is scar tissue that forms, because of accidental cuts into the vaginal wall (Cutting the Rose).
This in turn leads to painful menstruation, or otherwise referred to as dysmenorrhoea. This happens because the menstrual blood cannot flow freely. Since the vaginal hole is so small this also leads to painful intercourse. Another long-term condition that may occur is a tumor that is composed of nerve tissue, at the point of section of the dorsal nerve of the clitoris. This also leads to excruciating pain for the female that has undergone this procedure.
There are also psychological effects that occur in women that have had this procedure done to them. Several women that have been interviewed say that because this mutilation has been done to them, they have feeling of anxiety, terror, humiliation, and betrayal to the people that have done this to them (Female Genital Mutilation).
People that are pro female circumcision say that there is nothing wrong at all with this practice; in fact, they actually praise it. Carla Obermeyer, a medial anthropologist and epidemiologist at Harvard University, published a comprehensive review of the literature on female genital surgeries in Africa. She concluded that the claims of anti-FGM movements are highly exaggerated and do not match reality. By looking at 435 scholarly articles she found that most of the publications had no hard evidence, they were all critical articles by people that just did not like the procedure practiced (What about Female Genital Mutilation).
Tribes in Africa like the Okiek do not talk about female circumcision in terms of reducing sexual pleasure or desire, but they talk about it in terms of cleanliness, beauty and adulthood (What about Female Genital Mutilation). Another tribe called the Kikuyu assured Scientist Robert Edgerton that women that are circumcised continue to be orgasmic, and actually enjoy sexual intercourse. Studies also have been conducted in rural and urban Egyptian women that have had the operation done on them. Out of fifty women that were interviewed only two of them resented that they have been circumcised.
There are other notable facts about this cultural practice. For one thing, most African women do not think about circumcision in human-rights terms. Women who endorse female circumcision typically argue that it is an import part of their cultural heritage or their religion, while women who do not endorse the practice typically argue that it is not permitted by their cultural heritage or their religion.
It seems like the people that are not familiar with this ritual always try to knock it down without really knowing what is actually being done. On the other hand people that live in the societies where it is practiced embrace the event. Another survey developed by The Health department asked 3,805 if they were circumcised. 89 percent of them were. Of the women that were circumcised 96 percent of them said that they had or would have their daughters circumcised.
They also asked if they women favored the continuation of the practice, and an astonishing 90 percent of circumcised women said that they would favor continuation of the ritual (Shweder 2000).
Based on the female cultures like in Somalia and in Sudan, it is believed by women that their genital alterations actually improve their bodies. They say that the alterations make them more beautiful, more feminine, more civilized, and much more honorable (Shweder 2000).
They are more beautiful because their bodies are made smooth, and the flesh that they used to have is thought of as being ugly and odious. That is how people feel about the male penis in the United States. Most women prefer a man who is circumcised to one who was left intact.
The women fell more feminine because unmodified genitals in males as well as females are seen as sexually ambiguous. The women who answered these questions say that they have acquired full female identity, they become more social, and they receive the support of all the women in their culture (Shweder 2000).
They believe that they are more civilized because their alteration is a symbolic action that makes women have much self-control over their sexual feelings and pleasure. So that makes the process of getting married much more sacred. Finally, it is more honorable because their womb is “free from sin” (Shweder 2000).
In the cultures that practice this procedure, not only do they do this to females; they also do this to the boys in those communities as well. It symbolized a new chapter in their lives, the chapter of being brought into adulthood. The children who undergo this procedure do not dread it; in fact, they actually look forward to it. Even though it is very painful, especially when it is done with no anesthesia. They think of it as a test of courage. As for people saying that African parents do not care about their children, this is false. Who in their right mind would not love their own children? (Shweder 2000).
Without hearing both sides of the story one is quick to judge. I have to admit that when I started my research on this project, I found a lot of negative information regarding female genital mutilations, which lead me to believe that it was a horrible thing to do to these poor innocent girls. On the contrary when I found articles about whey this is done to women, which were not bias I began to believe that every culture is different and they do different things. Finally I believe that people, especially Americans should butt out of people’s lives and only worry about their own, because I am sure that there are people in other countries that do not like what the U.S. does, but they cannot say it in public because they cannot provide the news coverage like Americas can.
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