Female Circumcision

Culture - Why is it Done?

Most in the West and those that practice FC believe that female circumcision is an Islamic practice. This is not the case. It has been performed on young women for thousands of years, well before Islam was established and before the prophet Mohammad was born. FC was first recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphics, hence the name pharaonic circumcision.

FC is a cultural practice that over the years through religious misinterpretation has been attributed to Islam and the Qur’an. There is only one passage in the Qur’an or the Sunnah, book of Islamic laws, that mentions FC. In it Mohammed advises a woman to cut less of herself than she is cutting. Scholars are in debate about the authenticity of this passage. Even if it is authentic it does not prove that FC is a Muslim mandate, only that it may be permitted by Muslim teachings.

FMG Map
African News Agency

One could interpret the true Muslim view of FC in this way. The clitoris is an organ that is purely for pleasure. There is no instruction to modify or remove the clitoris within the Qur’an. Also, there are passages in the Qur’an that say a man and his wife should pleasure each other during sex. This would suggest that God approves of the clitoris; therefore it should not be modified or reduced.

Despite this it is mostly Muslim people that perform female circumcisions. It is believed that 130 million women worldwide have been circumcised, and that approximately 3 million young girls undergo this procedure a year.

There are some Christian people that circumcise their daughters. The justification for this can be found in only one small passage in the Bible that refers to an Arab man circumcising his wife. The Christians that do this usually, but not always, come from areas of the world that Muslim circumcisers come from; Egypt and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Culturally, why would this be done? There are several reasons. One is hygiene. It is believed, similarly to male circumcision, that a vulva that is circumcised can be kept cleaner than one that has not been. A woman who has undergone FC is also seen as morally clean. Those not circumcised run the very real risk of being seen as unclean and as a result not be able to find a husband.

It is also done to protect a women’s honor. Since type II and III decrease sexual sensitivity it is thought that a women who is circumcised is less likely to have sex before marriage. She is also believed to be less likely to have sex outside of her marriage. So FC can be used to assure virginity and faithfulness.

FC can simply be a form of men’s control over women. In many cases it is a patriarchic society in which women are essential mutilated and deprived of sexual sensation in order for there husbands and father to keep control over them. Today however this attitude may be changing. In some parts of Africa men are opposing female circumcision while elder woman are insisting on the practice.