When parts of the female genitalia are cut off for no medical reason, there are many names given to the procedures including female circumcision, female genital mutilation (FGM), female genital cutting, female genital excision, and clitoridectomy.
Unlike some circumcision procedures for the penis to reduce HIV transmission, the World Health Organization says that “the procedure [on female genitals] has no health benefits for girls and women.”1 Sometimes it’s the entire removal or partial cutting of the clitoris, sometimes the vaginal opening is narrowed, sometimes parts of several areas of the genitalia are cut off.
For those cultures that condone female circumcision, there are benefits to those females within their societies as it might be a rite of passage to adulthood or a condition for marriage.
Some women have elective surgery to make their vaginas more appealing to their standards of beauty that have nothing to do with cultural or societal pressures.
The sourced articles below should provide more information on female circumcision.
- Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation
“Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. In many settings, health care providers perform FGM in the erroneous belief that the procedure is safer when medicalized. WHO and other UN partners strongly urge health professionals not to perform such procedures.”
World Health Organization, who.int, accessed on 11/19/2018
- U.S. Government Fact Sheet On Female Genital Mutilation Or Cutting (FGM/C)
“What Are the Criminal Consequences of Performing or Assisting in FGM/C?
It is against U.S. law to perform FGM/C on a girl under the age of 18, or to send or attempt to send her outside the United States so FGM/C can be performed. Violation of the law is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, fines, or both. There is no exception for performing FGM/C because of tradition or culture. Cutting and other procedures that injure the female genital organs of a girl under 18 are prohibited under U.S. law.”
U.S. Department of State, travel.state.gov, accessed on 11/18/2018
- Female Genital Mutilation Or Cutting
“Other reasons may include:
• To help ensure a woman remains a virgin
until marriage …
• Rite of passage. In some countries, FGM/C is a part of the ritual that a girl goes through to be considered a woman.
• Condition of marriage. In some countries, a girl or woman is cut in order to be considered suitable for marriage.
• Belief that FGM/C increases sexual pleasure for the man
• Religious duty, although no religion’s holy texts require FGM/C”
Office of Women’s Health, womenshealth.gov, accessed on 11/18/2018
- Genital Mutilation Of Girls And Women
“But what about ethics?
In most cases, female genital mutilation is unquestionably more drastic and debilitating than male circumcision. For this reason, from a biological viewpoint, it is unjustifiable to imply that the two are equivalent. Nevertheless, the two kinds of injury of the external genitalia do share common ground with respect to ethical principles. As Brian Earp has argued, it is morally wrong to mutilate genitals in either sex prior to the age of consent. Yet, in many cases, FGM is performed on girls aged five or less. Similarly, male circumcision is often conducted quite soon after birth. It is open to discussion whether genital manipulation is permissible at any age, but doing so early in life surely violates an individual’s rights.”
Robert D. Martin, PhD, psychologytoday.com, 11/15/2018
- Designer Genitals Or Mutilation?
“As a cultural psychologist, I noticed a disturbing similarity to the designer vagina phenomenon and the traditional practice of female genital alteration (FGA), also known as female circumcision, female genital cutting, and female genital mutilation. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines this as ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.’ They further maintain that FGA is a ‘violation of the human rights of girls and women.'”
Monnica T Williams, PhD, psychologytoday.com, 7/1/2018
- Female Genital Mutilation
“Cultural and social factors for performing FGM:
The reasons why female genital mutilations are performed vary from one region to another as well as over time, and include a mix of sociocultural factors within families and communities. The most commonly cited reasons are:
-Where FGM is a social convention (social norm), the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing, as well as the need to be accepted socially and the fear of being rejected by the community, are strong motivations to perpetuate the practice. In some communities, FGM is almost universally performed and unquestioned.
-FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
-FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behaviour. It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman’s libido and therefore believed to help her resist extramarital sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed (type 3), the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage extramarital sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM.
-Where it is believed that being cut increases marriageability, FGM is more likely to be carried out.
-FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine or male.
-Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.
-Religious leaders take varying positions with regard to FGM: some promote it, some consider it irrelevant to religion, and others contribute to its elimination.
-Local structures of power and authority, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice.
-In most societies, where FGM is practised, it is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.
-In some societies, recent adoption of the practice is linked to copying the traditions of neighbouring groups. Sometimes it has started as part of a wider religious or traditional revival movement.”
World Health Organization, who.int, 1/31/2018
- What Is Female Genital Mutilation Or FGM?
“Why is FGM practised? …
Controlling female sexuality: FGM has been closely associated with the control of female sexuality. According to the World Health Organisation, in different cultures, some believe the procedure curbs women’s sexual urges, and thereby increases the likelihood of them remaining virgins until they are married.
Religion: FGM is practised within both Muslim and Christian communities, as well as by followers of some indigenous religions. Although neither Islam nor Christianity endorse it, religious doctrine is often used to justify it.
Social obligation: Partly because of its association with religion, many societies consider FGM an essential part of raising a girl and preparing her for womanhood and marriage. With its direct link to beliefs about premarital virginity and marital fidelity, the social pressure to adhere to the practice can be intense.
Economic factors: And because of these associations, in many communities, FGM is a prerequisite for marriage. In places where women may be financially dependent on marriage, economics can become a justification for FGM.
Aesthetics: In some communities, the practice is presented as a form of beautification.”
Al Jazeera, aljazeera.com, 10/5/2017
- The Alarming Rise Of Female Genital Mutilation In America
“It has no basis in religion …
No religious texts require FGM. Yet some cultures and sects believe the practice makes for better wives by making girls more acceptable in their communities, thus improving their eligibility for marriage. The practice aims to reduce a woman’s libido to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity, and can be associated with being ‘feminine,’ ‘modest,’ ‘clean’ and ‘beautiful.’
It’s practiced in households at all educational levels and all social classes and occurs among many religious groups, including Muslims, Christians and animists. The origins of the practice are unclear, with historians citing evidence of it in Egyptian mummies and in the fifth century BC.
In 13 African countries, more than half of women aged 15 to 49 have undergone the procedure.”
Michelle Krupa, cnn.com, 7/14/2017
- Female Genital Mutilation: What It Does To A Woman
“Once the damage of female genital mutilation is done, can it be medically undone?
It depends on the type of mutilation. Some women have partial or total removal of the clitoris [a small, highly sensitive part of the genitalia]; some have the folds of flesh around the vagina removed; some have both those areas removed; some have the vaginal opening narrowed, often by stitching, and some women have some form of piercing, scraping, cauterizing to genitalia.
For women who have undergone what’s called infibulation, or narrowing of the vaginal opening leaving only a very narrow opening for menstrual flow and intercourse, WHO recommends reopening of the vaginal orifice. That can reduce a lot of complications, and it has to be done for childbirth. But sometimes after childbirth, providers — nurses, midwives or doctors — close it up again, often without asking the woman.”
Susan Brink, npr.org, 5/6/2017
- Why Some Women Choose To Get Circumcised
“Khazan: Was the girl like, ‘No, don’t do this to me!’ or was she like, ‘This is happening.’?
Shell-Duncan: No, no, she was proud. She sat there stoic and looked up at a focal point. She didn’t flinch, and that’s apparently a really important part of showing your maturity: Can you withstand the pain? It shows that you have the maturity to face the hardship that is coming as a woman.”
Olga Khazan, theatlantic.com, 4/8/2015
1. who.int, 1/31/2018