I recently watched a documentary that followed the tradition of female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), in various countries in Africa. It involves cutting off the woman’s clitoris, which is equivalent to the tip of a man’s penis (a.k.a “head”. Note: this is NOT the foreskin). Just to put this in perspective, the female clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings, twice the number in the penis. And in some cases the labia majora and minora (the inner and outer lips of the va-jay-jay) are thrown in for good measure with the opening sewn shut (infibulation). All of this is done while the woman is awake, and screaming.
This topic has been the subject of much debate in recent years, especially in certain parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I used to think that even though this practice occurred in some parts of Africa, it definitely did not occur in my home country of Nigeria. Turns out I was wrong and if you haven’t watched the movie Lost Maiden, you should because it addresses the subject.
Although FGM is prohibited by law in many of the countries where it is practiced, it has continued to thrive even with threats of prison time and hefty fines. Some reasons people give for continuing this practice include:
– it is our culture and tradition
– Women who are not circumcised are impure and will be promiscuous
– Men prefer circumcised women with smaller opening (as seen with infibulation)
– It will offend the gods and something bad may happen.
Some of the reasons why it has been prohibited include:
– It hurts like hell (to state the obvious)
-These are traditionally done in rural settings, with blunt razor blades used repeatedly on different girls, leading to the spread of HIV
– These unhygienic conditions in addition to the injury can lead to the formation of fistulas (a hole between the bladder and the va-jay-jay, leading to constant leakage of urine). And this in turn can result in the woman becoming an outcast. .. (now’s that a topic for another day!)
-Due to scarred down tissue from the cut, only a narrow opening for delivery of babies. This leads to life threatening complications of childbirth including infection and hemorrhaging due to prolonged labor.
And the list could go on forever…
That being said, I am curious to see what you all think about this practice. In recent discussions on the topic I have heard different opinions, some who agree with it and some who don’t. Having done my best to present the evidence as succinctly and impartially as I can, I would like you to decide -Off with their heads or not!
PS: if you’re interested in watching the documentary it is called: The Right to Femininity: Fighting female circumcision in Africa.