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Female Genital Mutilation 1: History

The practice of female genital mutilation/circumcision has dated back to ancient times. Female circumcision has existed for over 4,000-5,000 years originating in a period predating God’s covenant with Abraham to circumcise his people.

History

The practice of female genital mutilation/circumcision has dated back to ancient times. Female circumcision has existed for over 4,000-5,000 years originating in a period predating God’s covenant with Abraham to circumcise his people. The practice began in Egypt and was frequently performed by the ancient cultures of the Phoenicians, Hittites, and the ancient Egyptians. The idea was created based on the belief that the foreskin was the feminine part of the male and the clitoris the masculine part of the woman. The removal of extra tissue thereby circumvented sexual ambiguity.

The practice of female circumcision soon migrated to the Red Sea coastal tribes and the Arab traders and then eventually to eastern Sudan. Today the practice has barely waned in some of the modern day Moslem and African civilizations and with the increase of migrants from such areas; the primitive tradition has reached the coasts of America, Europe, Australia and Canada. It is estimated that over 120 million women have undergone the procedure worldwide and that between 4 and 5 million cases of female genital mutilation occur annually in infant girls and women.

Explanations

Female circumcision has been researched extensively by an array of social sciences including anthropologists, psychologists, psychiatrists and physicians. A multiplicity of explanations have been offered to comprehend the practice including: social prestige, sacrifice to fertility gods, decreased sexual pleasure to prevent moral degeneration, tribal signs, tests for endurance, reincarnation, enhanced sexual performance and hygienic reasons. For many cultures the practice is often a symbol of tradition, distinction, enslavement and suppression.

Several justifications have been extended by cultures for which the practice is prevalent including the custom of preserving their cultural identity by continuing the practice; controlling women’s sexuality by reducing their sexual fulfillment; religious duty and doctrine; and social pressure in which the community creates an environment in which the practice becomes a requirement for social acceptance. In a news report “Egyptian Court allows Female Circumcision” Egyptian Sheik Yusef Badry stated to the Toronto Globe in 1997, “It’s our religion. We pray, we do fasting, we do circumcision. For 14 centuries of Islam, our mothers and grandmothers have performed this operation. Those who are not circumcised get AIDS easily.”

Although female genital mutilations have been documented in a variety of faiths, including Christians, Muslims and Jews, some supporters of the Islamic faith claim that FGM is required practice. Yet scholars and theologians of Islam assert that female circumcision is not approved by their religious doctrines or any other religion. Theologians furthermore emphasize that in many major Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, the procedure is almost never performed. Most of the African tribes that do perform this “operation,” believe that the excision is a custom decreed by their ancestors and must be upheld under all circumstances and as such represents a peace of mind. Sadly, FGM is a barbaric act yet is still viewed as the core prerequisite to matrimony, status and acceptance.

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  1. Shergill

    On August 2, 2008 at 11:51 am


    Great, accurate, well researched article.

    I am opposed to all forms of genital mutilation including male infant circumcision. I have succeeded in making many enemies.

  2. JDB

    On February 9, 2009 at 8:58 am


    I think FGM is repulsive and disgusting, no woman she be forced into such a ridiculous thing.

  3. Gunnar

    On October 9, 2009 at 7:46 pm


    Some parts are accurate but the text lacks decleration of sources and statements such as \”Female circumcision has existed for over 4,000-5,000 years originating\” has no historical proof behind them. Usually Herodotus (484-424 BC) and Strabo (63 BC – 25 AD) are the ones mentioned when talking about the history of FGM but proof further back in history is hard to find. The article also mentions about \”some supporters of the Islamic faith claim that FGM is required practice\” but does not mention about some regions where the practice of FGM is greater among Christian than Muslims (Niger, Nigeria and the United Republic of Tanzania – source UNICEF – Female genital mutilation cutting – A statical exploration). But good work, i just wanted to point out that it\’s difficult to write accurate about this issue on a blog where everything must be short and simplified to not bore the reader.

  4. milade

    On November 11, 2009 at 2:28 am


    Hello Gunnar,
    I am doing a research paper on FGM,
    you seem to have alot of knowledge about FGM. If you don’t mind helping me finding sources and etc.
    please email me at arasooli4083@yahoo.com

    thank u so much

  5. leslie valentine

    On February 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm


    i am also writing a paper on fgm

    please email me with reputable sources:

    xradiationjetgirltonic@hotmail.com

    greatly appreciated if possible

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