Female Genital Cutting (FGC) An Introduction

As you are reading this article, there are between 8 and 10 million women and girls in the Middle East and in Africa who are at risk of going through one form or another of genital cutting.

In the U.S. it is estimated that about 10 thousand girls are at risk of this practice. FGC in a diversity of its forms is practiced in Middle Eastern countries (the two Yemens, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Southern Algeria). In Africa it is practiced in the majority of the continent this includes Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mozambique, and Sudan.

Even despite the fact that FGC is practiced in generally Islamic countries, it is not an Islamic practice. FGC is a cross-cultural and cross-religious ritual. In Africa and the Middle East it is performed by Muslims, Coptic Christians, members of loads of indigenous groups, Protestants, and Catholics, to name a couple of.


FGC is a phrase used to point to any practice which consists of the removal or the modification of the female genitalia. There are 3 main forms of FGC that are practiced by means of the world: Type I or Sunna circumcision, Type II or excision, and Type III or infibulation. These 3 operations range in intensity, from the “mildness” of Type I, to the extreme Type III. Type II is a recent addition to FGC. I will clarify in the following sections what every one of these practices involucre, and outline a couple of of the short-term and long-term effects that they have.

Type I — Sunna Circumcision

The first and mildest kind of FGC is called “sunna circumcision” or Type I. The phrase “Sunna” relates to tradition as taught by the prophet Muhammad. This involucres the “removal of the prepuce with or without the excision of part or each and every one of the clitoris (See the World Health Organization definition).

Type I is practiced in a broad ground all across Africa parallel to the equator. Fran Hosken enumerates the next countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania in East Africa to the West African coast, from Sierra Leone to Mauritania, and in all countries in-between this includes Nigeria, the most populous one. There are additionally reports of Type I taking place in areas of the Middle East such as in Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Type II – Clitoridectomy

The second kind of FGC, Type II, involucres the partial or entire removal of the clitoris, and also the scraping off of the labia majora and labia minora. This takes place in countries where infibulation has been outlawed such as Sudan. Clitoridectomy was invented by Sudanese midwives as a compromise when British legislation forbade the hardest operations in 1946.

Type III – Infibulation or Pharaonic Circumcision

The third and most drastic kind of FGC is Type III. This most extreme form, incorporates the 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 little opening is kept to facilitate passage of urine and menstrual blood. An infibulated woman must be cut open to facilitate intercourse on the wedding night and is closed again afterwards to safe fidelity to the husband. Hosken additionally reports that infibulation is “practiced on all females, almost without exception, in all of Somalia and everywhere ethnic Somalis live (Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti). It is additionally performed all through the Nile Valley, this includes Southern Egypt, and all along the Red Sea’s Coast.

FGC is generally 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 generally used on many girls in succession and are rarely cleaned, provoking the transmission of a diversity of viruses such as the HIV virus, and other infections. Antiseptic formulas and anesthesia are generally unused, or for that matter, heard of. This is akin to a physician who uses the same surgical instrument on a couple of women at the same time without cleaning any of them.

Effects of Female Genital Cutting:

Beyond the evident initial pains of the operations, FGC has long-term physiological, sexual, and psychological effects. The unsanitary background under which FGC takes place results in infections of the genital and surrounding areas and often results in the transmission of the HIV virus which can cause AIDS. a couple of of the other health consequences of FGC include primary fatalities due to shock, hemorrhage or septicemia. so that minimize the risk of the transmission of the viruses, a couple of countries like Egypt produced it unlawful for FGC to be practiced by any other practitioners than educated doctors and nurses in hospitals. While this sounds like a more humane alternative to deal with FGC and try to lower its health risks, more tissue is apt to be taken away because of the lack of struggle by the child if anesthesia is used.

Long-term drawbacks include sexual frigidity, genital malformation, delayed menarche, chronic pelvic drawbacks, recurrent urinary retention and infection, and an entire variety of obstetric drawbacks whereas the fetus is exposed to a variety of infectious diseases and also facing the risk of having his or her head crushed in the hurted birth canal. In such situations the infibulated mother must suffer another surgical procedure whereby she is “opened” likewise to insure the secure birthing of her child.

Girls suffer FGC when they are around 3 years old, though a couple of of them are much older than that when they suffer the surgical procedure. The age varies depending on the kind of the ritual and the customs of the local village or region.


In loads of cultures there are multiple “justifications” for these practices. A girl who is not circumcised is considered “unclean” by local villagers and therefore unmarriageable. A girl who doesn’t have her clitoris removed is considered an excellent danger and ultimately fatal to a man if her clitoris touches his penis.

One of the most normal explanations of FGC is local custom. Women are often heard saying that they are unwilling to change these customs since they have continually done it this way and aren’t about to change. Oftentimes the practitioners are kept ignorant of the real implications of FGC, and the extreme health risks that it represents.

Family honor, cleanliness, protection contrary spells, insurance of virginity and faithfulness to the husband, or easily terrorizing women out of sex are occasionally used as excuses for the practice of FGC.

Some people believe that FGC is a barbaric practice done to girls and women in a couple of remote villages in foreign countries of the world. though, up until a couple of decades ago, it was still believed that the clitoris is a very adverse part of the female anatomy. Who can forget S. Freud who stated in one of his books entitled Sexuality and the Psychology of Love that the “elimination of clitoral sexuality is a needed precondition for the development of femininity.”

As currently as 1979, the “Love Surgery” was performed on women in the U.S.. Dr. James E. Burt, the so-called Love Surgeon, introduced “clitoral relocation” (i.e. sunna circumcision) to the medical establishment. He believed and acted upon the idea that excision doesn’t prevent sexual pleasure but enhances it. Dr. Burt practiced in Ohio for almost 10 years before he was exposed after which he gave up his license.

Because of the large number of situations of FGC and a couple of of the deaths it has caused, FGC is now outlawed in a couple of European countries (Britain, France, Sweden, and Switzerland) and a couple of African countries (Egypt, Kenya, Senegal).


It is also essential to note that regardless FGC is presently illegal in multiple countries in Africa and the Middle East, this has not reduced the amount of the girls that are mutilated once a year. The governments of these countries have no mode of monitoring the spread and practice of FGC. The United Nations, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization have considered FGC to be a violation of Human Rights and have made tips to eradicate this practice. though, trying to combat FGC on legal terms is ineffective since those who practice it oftentimes don’t report it. FGC is additionally widely practiced in villages and remote places where the government doesn’t have an easy access.

A better and more efficient approach would be a contribution on the national level and also the international level. The UN and the WHO have earlier taken the first step in abolishing these practices. Countries also plan to have rigid laws that get involved with FGC situations. This is also not enough by itself. Anthropologists, educators, social scientists, and activists have to go into these villages and areas and educate the practitioners of the dangers of FGC. Female Genital Cutting can only be abolished by a grassroots approach which would take into consideration all aspects of a definite culture and try to work within that system of beliefs to eradicate this practice.

In multiple cultures, FGC serves as an initiation rite, and any efforts to eradicate it must take this into consideration. a couple of of the most successful eradication efforts have taken place in areas where FGC was substituted with “initiation without cutting” programs whereas a girl still goes by means of some initiation rites but this time, without any blood.

On the U.S. level, there are multiple efforts that are being produced in order to abolish the practice locally and internationally. The National planning of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), a networking organization have brought together social scientists and medical practitioners from all around the globe who are fighting FGC and also male circumcision. NOCIRC has additionally founded the FGC Awareness and Education Project in August 1996. One of the goals of the project is to originate an FGC Module which will provide information and training material to health care professionals. NOCIRC has additionally organized the International Symposium on Sexual Mutilations.

The exploration, Actiona & Information Network for Bodily Integrity of Women (RAINBO) has been conducting exploration and grass-roots programs internationally and also in the U.S. on women’s reproductive sexual health and also on female genital mutilation. On the National Level, Congresswoman Patricia Shroeder introduced H.R. 3247, a invoice to outlaw FGC in the U.S. in the fall of 1994. The invoice was then combined with The Minority Health Initiatives Act, H.R.3864. This invoice was then combined with H.R. 941 on February 14, 1995 which was to be cited as the “Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation of 1995.”

The invoice was passed in September 1996. a couple of overdue effort is being produced to abolish FGC, but there is yet much work to be completed. Educating ourselves, and also others is a way that we can set out acting upon the convictions that human rights shouldn’t violated, and that violence contrary women is intolerable. multiple people are even unaware that practices such as FGC are even widely practiced, and only an awareness can bring this inhumane practice to a halt.

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