Historical Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the Shift from Infibulation to Clitoridectomy and Non-Circumcision in Sudan

By Ahmed, Abdel Magied | Ahfad Journal, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Historical Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the Shift from Infibulation to Clitoridectomy and Non-Circumcision in Sudan


Ahmed, Abdel Magied, Ahfad Journal


Abstract

Graphical extrapolations from previous national surveys on FGM in Sudan have shown overall prevalence of about 96% between 1979 and 1983. In 1991, the overall prevalence was 89.2% with a drop of 7.3%. National surveys of 2000 and 2001 recorded 90% overall prevalence of FGM. About five years later Sudan House Hold Survey (2006) reported FGM overall prevalence of 69.4% with an unrealistic drop of 21.6% within a period of about five years.

Graphical extrapolations of historical prevalence of FGM (1979 to 2001) have shown a shift in the practice by gradual decline in infibulations and concomitant rise in clitoridectomies.

Historical prevalence (1979 to 2001) by types has also shown gradual decline in infibulations, gradual disappearance of intermediate circumcision and concomitant gradual rise in clitoridectomies and noncircumcision.

Resent pilot studies on three generations in Sudanese families have shown gradual decline in infibulations from grandmothers to mothers to daughters; with a reversed situation for clitoridectomies. There is also a clear gradual decline in circumcision at large from grandmothers to mothers to daughters; with a reversed situation for non-circumcision.

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Introduction:

A process of social and cultural transformation has been in motion throughout Sudan during the last part of last century. There are some factors that have positively or negatively influenced FGM practice in Sudan.

The efforts of the NGOs, SNCTP, BBSAWS and NCEHTP, in coordination with many other autonomous organizations and individuals, have led to a gradual and slow., yet demonstrable, shift in public attitudes towards FGM (El-Bashir, 2006). The latter author literally and verbatim stated:

"The very fact that the issue of female genital mutilation is now publicly discussed in the media and among women, men and young people of both sexes is in itself a major indicator of change. Discussion of the issue used to be taboo; at best, it was regarded as 'women's private issue and cannot be discussed by men": as a woman interviewed in central Sudan commented".

However, the insignificant or rather embryonic change in attitude towards FGM practice, after about 30 years of struggle, is only seen among urban communities and only within some select groups of high socio-economic status (Abdel Magied et al, 2003). Major reasons for this include: Stereotype target groups, untested and not scientifically based irrelevant messages, messengers not being accepted in major extension programs by target groups particularly in rural areas, inappropriate approaches, and absence of an explicit government policy, commitment or support for a proper national strategic plan and lack of laws or decrees against FGM. This is in addition to rarity of appropriate, relevant and reliable qualitative research addressing major issues and providing the needed information for modulation of a sound national strategy and action plan with appropriate interventions for the ultimate abolition of FGM practice in Sudan (Abdel Magied, 2007).

Justification:

It has been hypothesized that there is a gradual positive shift in attitude towards FGM practice (El-Bashir, 2006). It is, however, often but only said that there is also a shift in the practice from the severe form (infibulation) to the milder form (clitoridectomy) and perhaps to noncircumcision.

Objectives:

To authenticate the truth behind the afore said hypothesis and speculations.

Methodology:

The historical overall prevalence of FGM practiced in Sudan, decline in infibulations and concomitant rise in clitoridectomies have been graphically extrapolated from published literature on the national surveys carried out in the Sudan.

Evidence for the inclination to non-circumcision has been established by pilot surveys conducted by the co-workers (Al Amin, 2008; Al Bashir and Mohamed, 2008) of the author of this article.

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