Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting

Female Genital Mutilation

In order to understand articles and discussions about female genital mutilation/cutting, it is crucial to first have a definitive source to read about the subject.  The World Health Organization defines FGM/C as, “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons.” In up-to-date and medical detail, the UN published this fact sheet for education on this topic, while offering a light analysis along the way.

FGM is classified in four different types: Clitoridectomy, Excision, Infibulation, and non-major types (i.e pricking, piercing) This procedure has been recognized as a violation of human rights on an international scale. FGM has zero benefits and can lead to shock or death almost immediately. Long term effects include urinary, menstrual, and childbirth complications. Psychological effects are also an issue. PTSD, anxiety, and depression play roles in this process.

Culture is also a factor in why FGM occurs. It is practiced most commonly in western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, however, each region varies in the severity of the practice. In some communities, FGM is to be expected in order to move into adulthood and is seen as critical in order to be accepted by their community. The practice is harmful, but social norms and cultural ideals of femininity play a major role, leading FGM to be far from abolished.

World Health Organization.  “Female Genital Mutilation” WHO (Media Centre), Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations, Feb 2016.  24 July 2016. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en>.

Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised

When faced with cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and cutting, it is important to consider the issue from multiple perspectives.  From the conversation between journalist Olga Khazan and anthropologist Bettina Shell-Duncan, readers gain a better understanding of FGM/C and why it is so culturally accepted in Africa.  

After trying to give a woman pain medication following this unsafe procedure, a woman told the anthropologist, “You don’t understand, this is not our way. And if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be a woman now”. Shell-Duncan explains her personal encounters with female genital mutilation, the ceremonial aspect in specific regions, and also sheds light on some of the common misconceptions about the subject.  This article provides valuable information on the pushback of ending FGM/C.

Khazan, Olga.  “Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised” The Atlantic, New Hampshire:  Hayley Romer, 8 April 2015. 17 July 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-anthropologist/389640>.

Can a Bath of Milk and Honey Replace Female Genital Mutilation?

In the Maasai and Samburu communities of Kenya and Tanzania, there have been progressive changes made in their practices.  These two places have decided to do away with the old tradition of FGM/C and create a new one.  Based on all of the education they have received, the procedure is now understood as something that is harmful and unsafe to a young girl.  To alter this tradition, the people of this region have decided to instead have a celebration of womanhood in which they pour goat milk and honey on their heads only after the group of young ladies who are coming of age have had extensive education of sexual and reproductive health, STDs, violence against women, and women’s rights in general.  This is truly an inspiring story and shows how the power of education can lead to innovation. For more information on the origin of this new tradition, watch this Ted Talk.

Cole, Dianne.  “Can a Bath of Milk and Honey Replace Female Genital Mutilation?” Goats and Soda, Washington D.C.: NPR, 23 Feb 2016.  24 July 2016.



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