TOTD: The Harmful Effects of Female Genital Circumcision

February 16, 2021 - Danielle James

TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic Descriptions, FGM, Assault

Genital circumcision has been a tradition around the world for both male and females alike. In America males are often circumcised at birth while in other countries women are circumcised once they reach age of maturity. In regards to female genital circumcision (FGC), it has been debated whether these procedures are a right of passage honoring centuries of tradition or if it is a violation of human rights based on sexist practices.

What is female genital circumcision? The definition of FGC can vary between each region and culture. In general, it is a procedure done unto women where their genitals (specifically the clit, labia majora, and labia minora) are surgically removed and in some cases the edges of the vulva are stitched together. Author Comfort Momoh, a british midwife who specializes in the treatment of female genital mutilation, defines the practice to be, “. . . supported by centirues of tradition, culture and false beliefs and is perpetuated by poverty, illiteracy, low status of women and inadequate healthcare facilities” (Momoh, 1).

Furthermore, whether these surgeries have been done in a hospital with sterilized equipment or in a makeshift shelter with rusted knives and scissors does little to change the negative impacts the procedure has on the females who undergo it. These negative side effects have been given the nickname ‘The three feminine sorrows’ by women in Somalia. These three sorrows take place the day the procedure occurs, the night before their wedding (where women are often cut open before intercourse), and when women give birth. After the procedure, roughly 25% of women and girls die due to long-term issues caused by FGC such as vaginal infections, severe bleeding, and complications during childbirth such as obstructed labor.

With all of these negative effects in mind, what could be the rationale behind causing so many women a lifetime of pain and suffering? According to Momoh, “The most common reason is tradition, but the other main components are psychosexual, religious, sociological, and for hygienic and aesthetic

purposes” (Momoh, 10). In places like Egypt and Sudan, performing clitoridectomy is seen to increase male pleasure during sexual intercourse. In other cultures it is viewed as a right of passage symbolizing a female's transition into adulthood. A poem written by an anonymous woman in Somalia captures the heartache many women have experienced due to FGC. “And now I appeal: I appeal for love lost, for dreams broken, for the right to live as a whole human being. I appeal to all peace loving people to protect, to support and give hand to innocent girls who do no harm” (Three Feminie Sorrows).

As a society we must do our part in spreading awareness for the harmful effects FGC has on more than 120 million women and girls throughout the world. We need to do our best in advocating for their right to decide what's best for their bodies without fear of social isolation from their communities.


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