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what are you thoughts on female circumcision?
is it a part of a culture we have little knowledge of, or is it something as American's we should stop from happening?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a destructive, invasive procedure that is usually performed on girls before puberty. Part or all of the clitoris is surgically removed. This leaves them with reduced or no sexual feeling. Orgasms are sometimes impossible to experience later in life. Many health problems result from the surgery.

FGM originated in Africa. It was, and remains, a cultural, not a religious practice.

Among individuals and groups opposed to the mutilation, it is seen as a method of reducing the sexual response of women in order to make them less likely to become sexually active before marriage or to seek an extra-marital affair after marriage.

To some who promote the operation, it is seen as a cultural requirement that has health benefits and makes women more physically beautiful. These views are not shared by the rest of the world.

What It Is
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is practiced in many forms:

*Sunna circumcision in which the tip of the clitoris and/or its covering (prepuce) are removed.
*Clitoridectomy where the entire clitoris, the prepuce and adjacent labia are removed.
*Infibulation (a.k.a. Pharaonic circumcision) which is a clitoridectomy followed by sewing up of the vulva. A small opening is left to allow urine and menstrual blood to pass. 1 A second operation is done later in life to reverse some of the damage. In some cultures, the woman is cut open by her husband on their wedding night with a double edged dagger. She may be sewn up again if her husband leaves on a long trip.

Because of poverty and lack of medical facilities, the procedure is frequently done under less than hygienic conditions, and often without anesthetic by other than medically trained personnel. Anesthesia is rarely used. Razor blades, knives or scissors are usually the instruments used. In the rural Mossi areas of Burkina Faso, group female circumcisions are scheduled every three years in many villages. Girls aged from 5 to 8 are assembled by their mothers into groups of up to 20. The circumcision "uses a knife-like instrument, the barga, reserved specifically for this purpose; after each operation she simply wipes the knife on a piece of cloth, sometimes rinsing it in water first." In some areas of Africa, FGM is delayed until two months before a woman gives birth. This practice is based on the belief that the baby will die if she/he comes into contact with their mother's clitoris during birth. We are unaware of any medical evidence to support this belief.

Side effects of the operation can include: hemorrhage, shock, painful scars, keloid formation, labial adherences, clitoral cysts, chronic urinary infection, and chronic pelvic infections. Later in life, it can cause kidney stones, sterility, sexual dysfunction, depression, and various gynecological and obstetric problems.

In which countries is it practiced?
Unfortunately, few statistical studies have been made; only rough estimates are available of the frequency with which FGM is performed. In some countries, the practice is near universal. One source estimates that 90% or more of the girls in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan (North) have been mutilated. The same source indicates that over 50% of the girls in Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria and Togo have been operated on. The FGM Education and Networking Project maintains a regularly updated list of countries, population groups, and the types of operation performed. There are over 30 million mutilated women currently living in Nigeria, and about 24 million in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Various groups estimate that from 114 to 130 million women worldwide have had the operation. FGM is outlawed in some countries where it had been widely practiced, such as Kenya and Senegal. It is criminalized in some western countries, where it is normally practiced only by a small number of recent immigrants.

Why it is Done?
The justification for the operation appears to be largely grounded in a desire to terminate or reduce feelings of sexual arousal in women so that they will be much less likely to engage in pre-marital intercourse or adultery. The clitoris holds a massive number of nerve endings, and generates feelings of sexual arousal when stimulated.

Uncircumcised women in countries where FGM is normally performed have difficulty finding a marriage partner. Men typically prefer a circumcised wife because they are considered more likely to be faithful. Other claims in support of FGM are:

**The clitoris is dangerous and must be removed for health reasons. Some believe that it is a poisonous organ, that can cause a man to sicken or die if contacted by a man's penis. Others believe that men can become impotent by contacting a clitoris, or that a baby will be hydrocephalic (born with excess cranial fluid) if its head contacts the clitoris during birth. Some believe that the milk of the mother will become poisonous if her clitoris touches the baby during childbirth.
**Bad genital odors can only be eliminated by removing the clitoris and labia minora.
**FGM prevents vaginal cancer.
**An unmodified clitoris can lead to masturbation or lesbianism.
**FGM prevents nervousness from developing in girls and women.
**FGM prevents the face from turning yellow.
**FGM makes a woman's face more beautiful.
**If FGM is not done, older men may not be able to match their wives' sex drive and may have to resort to illegal stimulating drugs.
**An intact clitoris generates sexual arousal in women which can cause neuroses if repressed.

These claims appear to have little support outside of countries where FGM is common.

The fear of AIDS has been used by both sides of this issue. Shiek Badri stated in 1997-JUN: "Those who are not circumcised get AIDS easily" But opponents to the practice sometimes claim that AIDS is spread by the unhygienic practices during the procedure itself.

The procedure has been banned in several African nations, including Burkina Faso, Djibouti, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Guinea, Senegal, and Togo.

source of above data: click here

<small style="color: green; font-family: lucida sans unicode">"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." steve biko</small>
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I read Alice Walker's book on female genital mutilation some years ago, not knowing what exactly it was all about when I began reading (Worrior Marks), and afterwards, it took me about two years to not feel my flesh crawl anytime I thought of the book. This practice is done in predominately Muslim countries for all the reasons you listed. Since the women effected are black or brown and since they live in prodominately non-christian nations, the world does not care what is happening to people/women in these parts of the world. Since these women have been brainwashed for centuries to believe that this mutilation is and good thing, people that try to change it have a hard time convincing even the women that it is wrong. It is also a very unsanitary and dangerous practice in most instances. I happen to also know a woman from West Africa who had it done to her, luckily she was in Europe when her first child was born; the procedure will heal in a way that will not allow the baby to come completely through the birth canal; once the doctors and nurses got over their shock that she could even be pregnant while (as she stated they continued to scream, "but, there is nothing there, how could she be pregnant?) her husband convinced them that they must cut her down there in order for the baby to be delivered and they did and their baby was finally delivered, luckily, with very minor health problems. (If a baby is due to be delivered and remains in the birth canal too long it can die or be born severly mentally retarded) This practice is no more or no less that a form of slavery. When I think of slavery, I am hard pressed to see which is worst, being a slave on a cotton plantation or being a woman in a country that practices abuse of the woman's rights, mentality, true scense of self. I will end this post by saying also, that I find it extremely odd, and puzziling that there are men in this world who do not want to see no more between a woman legs than would be found between the crack of a man behind.
One of the biggest problems in trying to stop this barbaric practice is opposition from the women in the communities where it is practised. Most men from these same communities would want to see the practice stopped but the women secretly do it to their daughters after having gone through the nightmare themselves. Looking at it is like watching women happily mutilate themselves through body piecing, why they like to do it God only knows, it is not pretty but women like to do it.

If you want to see this nonsense come to an early end, target the women who do this, educate them of why it is wrong and you will have a speedy and happy solution.

Is it just talk or are you for solutions? If you are GENUINELY interested in solving black problems? Then join us at
I've always thought of this practice as a form of cultural ignorance ... just not knowing any better! It is a horrible practice and should be totally erased from any and all societies.

There are a number of women's groups around the world that are working to educate the women that still do this. Their gains are small, but many work tirelessly at trying to bring this practice into public view and get whatever help they can in getting to these people and places and stopping this brutality from happening.

I, too, have heard many times that it is the mothers of girls that still carry on the practice, sending it down from one generation to another, because they simply don't know the damage it does.

I once saw a show on this, though, where a woman's group went into a village and tried as hard as they could to convince the women that what they were doing was wrong ... 2 of the girls were still made to go through the procedure, and it was heartbreaking to see their little faces. One girl cried and begged her mother not to make her go through. She was very intelligent ... wise beyond her years in a way, and she just seemed to know it was not right.

In the same show, women who had been through it but had since left their tribes or villages were interviewed and spoke of their regret. I hope it is soon a thing of the past. The sooner the better. Roll Eyes

Black by Nature, Proud by Choice.
thanks for the responses so far...this is interesting to me because i don't understand why it happens, and would like to.

i posted this topic after listening to a radio show where two women (Carol Beckwith, Angela Fisher) who have spent the last 30 years traveling Africa spoke about many, many things but this ceremony caught my attention. they witnessed it and photographed it for the book they were pumping (which happens to be a beautiful book). they talked about how terrible it was to watch, but how much the women who go through it believe in it.

they mentioned that it is a custom or a cultural observance and the women who do not go through with it are shunned from their tribe, they can never marry and never have children. women of these tribes want this to happen to them--although FEARFUL of the pain, they would rather take part in the ceremony than face a life outside of their homes and families.

they also spoke about how many groups in the world are trying to stop this ceremony, but really who are we from the west to impose our societal views on what has been their cultural practice for thousands of years.
while i agree that the medical hazards are apparent, i also wonder if it is our place to enforce our views (it should be totally erased from any and all societies or calling it a barbaric practice and saying it is wrong) on cultures we know little about?? why is it wrong? in who's eyes is it wrong? who's standard is it being measured against? (just playing devil's advocate)

The book is called African Ceremonies.


henry38--imo body piercing is a little bit different from mutilation that happens when a woman's clitoris is removed.

I think your statement that body piercing is not pretty is a personal statement--am i correct or do you know for a fact that EVERYONE feels this way?

in my experience some find it very attractive and arousing, but i wouldn't go so far to say that everyone loves body piercings.

a little more about the WHY...

Female circumcision is an integral part of the societies that practice it, where patriarchal authority and control of female sexuality and fertility are givens. In communities where a person's place in society is determined by lineage traced through fathers, female circumcision reduces the uncertainty surrounding paternity by discouraging or preventing women's sexual activity outside of marriage. Although the societies that practice circumcision vary in many ways, most girls receive little education and are valued primarily for their future role as sources of labor and producers of children. In some communities, the prospective husband's family pays a brideprice to the family of the bride, giving his family the right to her labor and her children; she herself has no right to or control over either.

A girl's virginity may be considered essential to her family's ability to arrange her marriage and receive a brideprice, as well as to family honor. In Somalia, for example, a prospective husband's family may have the right to inspect the bride's body prior to marriage, and mothers regularly check their infibulated daughters to ensure that they are still "closed." In this context, parents see both infibulation and early marriage as means of ensuring that their daughter remains "pure" and thus worthy of the brideprice.

In many cultures, considerable social pressure is brought to bear on families who resist conforming to the tradition of female circumcision. In Man, a town in the interior of Côte d'Ivoire, a Yacouba girl who has not been circumcised is not considered marriageable. Among the Samburu of Kenya, who consider uncircumcised girls unclean, promiscuous and immature, girls are generally circumcised at age 14 or 15, usually just before they are married. A girl with a younger brother may undergo circumcision if she remains unmarried by her late teens, since custom dictates that a boy with an uncircumcised older sister may not be initiated into the warrior class.

Girls' desires to conform to peer norms may make them eager to undergo circumcision, since those who remain uncut may be teased and looked down on by their age mates. In addition, the ritual cutting is often embedded in ceremonies in which the girls are feted and showered with presents and their families are honored. A girl's wishes, in any case, are often irrelevant; it is her family--often the father or elder female relatives--who decide whether she will undergo circumcision. According to one Yacouba father, "[My daughter] has no choice. I decide. Her viewpoint is not important."

Indeed, girls have very little choice. Given their age and their lack of education and resources, they are dependent on their parents, and later on their husband, for the basic necessities of life. Those who resist may be cut by force. If they remain uncircumcised and their families are therefore unable to arrange a marriage, they may be cast out without any means of subsistence.

Because of their lack of choice and the powerful influence of tradition, many girls accept circumcision as a necessary, and even natural, part of life, and adopt the rationales given for its existence. Of the five countries for which DHS data are available on women's opinions toward excision, the Central African Republic is the only one in which the majority favor discontinuation. A variety of justifications are given by DHS respondents who favor continuation of the practice, including preservation of virginity before marriage, fidelity after marriage, enhancement of the husband's sexual pleasure, enhancement of fertility, prevention of infant and child mortality, cleanliness and religious requirements, but tradition is by far the most commonly mentioned reason.

As these data show, women themselves are involved in perpetuating the practice of female genital cutting. Data on the attitudes of men have been collected only in Eritrea and Sudan. DHS data for Eritrea show that men are slightly more likely than women to favor discontinuation, and that men who believe the practice should be stopped are about twice as likely as their female counterparts to cite medical complications and lack of sexual satisfaction as reasons. In Sudan, a 1981 study found that men are somewhat more likely than women to believe female genital cutting should continue, but are less than half as likely as women to prefer infibulation.
full article

on the other side of the WHY ...

Fauziya Kassindja, a 17-year-old woman from Togo, focused public attention in the United States on female circumcision. More important, her case was instrumental in redefining the practice as gender-based violence that could be grounds for the granting of political asylum. Kassindja, who fled her homeland in October 1994 to avoid an arranged marriage and the genital cutting that would be part of the marriage rites, was placed in a detention center after arriving in the United States under a false passport and asking for asylum. She was released a year and a half later and granted asylum after intensive media coverage of her situation.

more details on this story

do you remember this news story?

Originally posted by henry38:
One of the biggest problems in trying to stop this barbaric practice is opposition from the women in the communities where it is practised. Most men from these same communities would want to see the practice stopped but the women secretly do it to their daughters after having gone through the nightmare themselves. Looking at it is like watching women happily mutilate themselves through body piecing, why they like to do it God only knows, it is not pretty but women like to do it.

If you want to see this nonsense come to an early end, target the women who do this, educate them of why it is wrong and you will have a speedy and happy solution.

Is it just talk or are you for solutions? If you are GENUINELY interested in solving black problems? Then join us at
Eek I just assumed in the back of my head all the aggressors were male, I NEVER for a second considered the sistas could be involved.

May the high praises of YAH be in their mouth and a two edged sword in their hand, To execute vengence on the peoples;to bind their kings with chains,and their nobles in shackles of iron,to carry out the sentence written against them.
This is the glory of the saints (psalms149)

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