Encyclopedia of Reproductive Technologies

By Annette Burfoot | Go to book overview

Nineteen
Female Circumcision/
Female Genital
Mutilation

NAHID TOUBIA

Female circumcision is a ritualistic cutting of parts of the genitals of girls as a rite of passage into womanhood. It is performed in preparation for socially defined female sexual and reproductive roles. This custom has also been termed female genital mutilation because it causes substantial anatomical and functional damage. An estimated 130 million girls and women in the world have undergone some form of female circumcision, and 2 million are at risk every year. This amounts to 600 females per day, or five per minute, suffering mutilation.

In modern times female circumcision/genital mutilation is practiced primarily in Africa and among small minorities in Asia. The possibility of the continuation of the practice on the part of African and Asian immigrants to new countries causes anxiety and debate in these countries. The state's obligation to protect children and observe universal standards of human rights is juxtaposed against the call for cultural tolerance and acceptance of social diversity. The twenty-seven African countries where female circumcision/genital mutilation is practiced are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zaire. In Asia these practices are known

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