What is Femal Genital Mutilation (FGM)?
Female Genital Mutilation can also be called "Female Genital Cutting" or "Female Circumcision."Although the practice predates the birth of Islam, it has taken on a dimension of the religion. It is, however, a practice that is performed across cultures and religions, and should not be considered to be strictly a religious practice, but also a cultural one.
There are many beliefs that add to the supposed reasons for the existence of Female Genital Mutilation. The cultures that practice the surgery do it for many different reasons. The following is a list of most of them found on a website:
- "It can ensure virginity (maintain chastity before marriage)
- It can ensure fidelity during marriage
- It will increase male sexual pleasure
- It can secure or enhance fertility
- It can secure the economic and social (i.e. marital) future of daughters
- It will prevent the clitoris from growing long like a penis
- Through the reduction or elimination of the female genitalia, that this will attenuate the sexual desire in the female
- The female genitalia are considered both dirty and unsightly
- It will keep the female clean, and more hygienic
- It is an important ritual and part of the initiation of girls into womanhood
- It is 'tradition' and part of one's cultural heritage
- That it is a religious mandate -- although the practice predates both Christianity and Islam"
Africa has the greatest amount of FGM, as the World Health Organization believes that somewhere between 100 million and 140 millon women and girls about have undergone the surgery throughout the world, 92 million of them over the age of ten living in Africa. Female Genital Mutilation has been outlawed in Britain, Canada, France, Norway, Sweeden, Switzerland, and the United States. The following two maps show the percentages of women and girls in Africa from the ages of 15-49 who have undergone a FGM surgery.
There are three general types of FGM that a woman can have done to her. Girls anywhere from infancy to adulthood can have this practice done in any of the three types.
- Sunna Circumcision (Type I)- The tip of a woman's clitoris is shaved or cut off. The word "sunna" refers to Muhammed's early tradition of the practice. This form of Female Genital Mutilation can be found in many countries in both East and West Africa, and countries in the Middle East.
- Clitoridectomy (Type II)- This form of Female Genital Mutilation involves the partial or even entire removal of a woman's clitoris, as well as the woman's labia. Clitoridectomies most often occur in places where Infibulation (or Type III) has been banned.
- Infibulation or Pharaonic Circumcision (Type III)- This most drastic form of FGM is the removal of the clitoris and labia, with the remaining skin streched across the vagina from both sides and stitched together with either thread, thorns or catgut. This leaves only a small opening through which the woman can urinate, and which menstural blood can come through. A woman with this third form of FGM has her previously sewn shut vagina opened as to allow her to have intercourse with her new husband, and then has it sewn back up in order to ensure that she is loyal to her husband.