A Cultural Experience about Female Circumcision
25 Apr. 2011
Although female circumcision is viewed as barbaric and violent, it is still a cultural tradition embraced by various ethnic groups across Africa. To understand the ways of African culture we must understand why female circumcision continues to be a part of our society.
I. Women of African descent are primarily circumcised
A. Four types of circumcision
B. Negative feedback from feminists
II. Researching circumcised women becomes judgmental
A. Doctors interests only in the circumcision
B. Awareness of health threats
C. Recognized and practiced in over 40 countries
III. The effects of circumcision can leave the woman’s husband hopeless for several months
A. Unable to penetrate the vagina during defibulation
B. Westerners treat female circumcision as child abuse
C. Children are educated why the practice is being performed on them
D. Banning female mutilation in America
A Cultural Experience about Female Circumcision
Female circumcision, as defined by Khaja, Lay, and Boys (2010) “is the cutting of female genitals without medical necessity”. “Approximately 135 million females have been circumcised globally” (Cui 2011; Khaja et al 2010).
... and request the circumcision. Different from most traditional practices in African, female circumcision is exclusively reserved for women's presence ... fears, but that have factual foundations. Cultural Meanings / Repercussions The circumcision of females in these noted countries carry strong ... been negative images placed on the women, there are examples where being circumcised could save her life. One ...
Primarily a practice common to women of African descent, female circumcision is referred to by many in the Western world as female genital cutting (FGC) or female genital mutilation. Though there is an argument against female circumcision by westerners who view it as barbaric and violent, female circumcision is still a cultural tradition embraced by various ethnic groups across Africa.
There are four types of female circumcisions—Type 1 referred to as sunna, Type 2 referred to as excision or clitoridectomy, Type 3 referred to as infibulations, and Type 4 which are unclassified circumcisions. The sunna is the most common type of female circumcision and involves the cutting of the clitoris or the clitoral hood. Excision is the complete removal of the clitoris and the removal of some or all of the labia minora (Hess, Weinland, and Saalinger 2010).
Infibulation is the removal of some or all of the internal and external genitalia and stitching resulting in narrowing the vaginal opening. Unclassified circumcisions include the piercing, pricking, and/or burning of the labia and/or the clitoris.
Female circumcision is a cultural practice that is supported by various ethnic groups in Africa. From puberty rites to fidelity control and paternity confidence to virginity and chastity, the origin of the practice is not clear and thus has been debated by many. Some scholars discount the relevance of the origin of the practice while others find the origin to be significant in understanding the continuing prevalence of the practice in today’s society.
The negative terminology applied to female circumcision by Westerners is indicative of their feelings regarding the practice. “The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Organization of Migration have both called for an end to female circumcision citing health problems such as severe bleeding, infection, gangrene, tetanus, and a host of other complications associated with the practice” (Cui 2011).
Feminists movements assert that the practice “threatens the basic rights of girls and women including their right to health, life, physical and sexual integrity, human dignity, self-determination, and freedom from torture, violence, and bodily harm” (Hess, Weinland, and Saalinger 2010).
... been removed during her circumcision. Males are lead to believe circumcised females are more desirable because if a woman is circumcised she will be very ... . Other regions, one finds the custom practiced by those of varied cultural socio-economic types. Female circumcision is mainly found in predominantly matriarchal groups ...
The critics of female circumcision often attribute the practice to barbaric individuals, societies, and cultures, failing to acknowledge the role that ethnocentricity play in their opinion. Schaefer (2006) defines ethnocentrism as “the tendency to assume that one’s culture and way of life are superior to all others” (34).
This essay is neither in support nor in opposition of female circumcision, instead it stands in support of the valuing of practices accepted by various cultures.
Research has shown that women who have been circumcised experience feelings of inferiority when amongst those who are opposed to the practice. Findings by Khaja et al (2010) reveal that circumcised women often feel like specimens when seeking care from Western medical providers. Research participants felt that the medical professional’s interest in their circumcisions superseded the primary reason for their visit. The findings further reveal that, contrary to Western belief, circumcised women have not been circumcised by infibulations. This finding debunks the belief that the purpose of female circumcision is to provide more sexual pleasure for men. In addition, circumcised women are aware of the potential health threats that the procedure pose, and thus have began to have the procedure performed in hospitals by medical professionals with sanitary tools.
In addition to the aforementioned findings, the pragmatic knowledge held by women that have been circumcised is often disregarded by opponents. Opponents of female circumcision posit it is a form of torture, which insinuates that mothers do not have the best interest of their daughters at heart. Majority of these mothers have themselves been circumcised as part of their cultural tradition. Women within these cultures are only acting within their cultural traditions, but to others it implies that they are torturing their daughters and are insensitive to their way of life. “There is often an expectation that men will marry only women who have undergone the practice, leading some women to worry about their daughters’ ability to marry” (Cui 2011).
... girls in these cultures, female circumcision has no valid medical purpose. The practice of female genital circumcision is a medically unnecessary one that leaves women with permanent ... they are not circumcised to keep them pure until marriage. Rheman states, “Refusing to undergo female circumcision may jeopardize a woman’s family relations ...
In these cultures, men play a major role of female circumcision.
Although complications of female circumcision can cause a number of problems such as, Keloid formation in the vagina, urinary tract infection, pain during sexual intercourse, and infertility, it is still frequently performed in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Mali, and Senegal. According to Hess, Weinland, and Saalinger (2010), female genital cutting (FGC) is seen as a rite of passage into womanhood in Nigeria, and is considered vital to social cohesion and important for the tempering of female assertiveness and the enhancement of female passivity. FGC is said to enhance a woman’s value in Sudan, and in Somalia the practice is perpetuated because it is believed to protect a woman’s virginity, increase fertility, and heighten male sexual pleasure.
Furthermore, female genital cutting is currently practiced in over 40 countries around the world. Although female circumcision is highly recognized by Muslims and Christians, animist and some Jews also practice. Female circumcision is an essential part of the societies that perform it, where domination and power over the female’s fertility and sexuality are given. What people outside the culture do not understand is that a girl who still has her virginity could be very important to the family because it allows them to arrange the young girls wedding. Girls who have not been circumcised are not considered for marriage in some countries. They are viewed as dirty, immoral, and unripe. “Depending on the cultural context, the age of girls who undergo genital mutilation varies from 7 days to puberty” (Cui 2011).
Then they are married, and sent off to live with their new husband. Many girls accept the practice as a must, and even natural, part of life, and thus accept the grounds that are given to them. Circumcising females is considered normal to some Africans, just as circumcised males are normal to many Americans. As Americans, circumcision is viewed differently when it comes to a woman being the patient. And their “reasons for deeply rooted traditions are often difficult to articulate, and therefore are easily discounted” (Horowitz, Jackson 1997).
Next, the effects on female circumcision during sex have no effective studies, but as Horowitz and Jackson stated, most clinicians presume a woman will have reduced sexual sensation if her clitoris is eliminated. Women who continue to have sexual relations experience some sexual pleasure, desires and often have orgasms, regardless of a culture’s tradition to hide their experiences. Circumcised women are fearful of having sex; the throbbing pain of being defibulated recognized, just as the woman’s husband disrupting the circumcision. When the husband tries to have intercourse with his wife who is infibulated, it could take several attempts before he penetrates her.
... of the world does not practice circumcision; over 80% of the world's males are intact (not circumcised). Most circumcised men are Muslim or ... is also reflected in a survey of what men think women find attractive in men. The data showed that men greatly ... penis size as a physical attribute that attracts women . The effect of circumcision on this result is now known. Negative feelings ...
Immigrants that live in the United States seek a safe haven from FGC. Also there are immigrants living in the United States who continue to practice FGC on their daughters and granddaughters. Hence, women of the African culture find this to be a normal part of their culture and others believe it is a part of their religion. However, Western women organizations describe female circumcision as child abuse as if Africans do not care about their children. Instead of focusing on the health issues of the practice it seemed as though the focus was why women were seeking treatment. The few circumcised women that are living in the U.S. feel the laws were put in place to ban all types of circumcisions, stating that they came from a generation of uncivilized abusers. Lenard (2000) found that many Western feminists had estranged circumcised women they wanted to advocate for because they used language that was provocative and horrific. This has caused circumcised women to feel distrustful and shifty. African mothers are not mutilating their daughters to harm them; they care about their well-being and want their children to be well educated. Mother’s explain to their children that their bodies are not right before they perform genital surgery. Most children are aware of the consequences and will eventually understand why the surgery is taking place, but some children do not follow their mother’s instructions. According to Khaja, Lay, and Boys (2010) rather than being more vocal on advocating for supportive health care education, North Americans have enacted criminal legislation to ban female circumcision.
... female circumcision. In 1984, African women's organizations gathered in Dakar, Senegal. There they formed the Inter-African Committee Against Traditional Practices ... that the magnitude of female circumcision is not understood by the child and rarely explained. To some children it is a ... , and access to education and health care, genital mutilation will end. Women will make sure of that." I found ...
In conclusion, the challenge we are faced with today is dealing with the consequences and accepting the practice of female circumcision. Although we will probably never understand why this is done or why one would want to mutilate another human beings body, culturally, Africans are supportive and sensitive about their tradition. We can only try helping women who has had a history of female circumcision, but we cannot govern a way of life.
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