The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective

The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective

The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective

The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective

Synopsis

Informed by five years of fieldwork in Sudan, the author studies indigenous and "outsider" perspectives on the traditional practice of female genital cutting.

Excerpt

To outsiders, the practice euphemistically known as “female circumcision” is shocking. That people surgically alter the genitals of young girls and women, usually in painful and unhygienic procedures that can cause grave harm to their health, seems truly horrible. Why do loving parents allow such things to happen? How can they bring themselves to celebrate these events? How can they justify the practice when occasionally a girl dies from the injuries?

The horror female circumcision evokes is grist for outrage, electrifying a cry for urgent change. At the new millennium, there are still millions of girls and women in dozens of countries who bear the scars of cutting done to their genitalia early in life. Worldwide, it is estimated that an additional two million girls too young to give their consent undergo some form of female genital cutting each year. How can this be?

This book offers an exploration of the female circumcision practices themselves, the reasons they are done, examples of the social contexts, the health, social, and sexual consequences, and the controversies surrounding the process of change. It addresses many of the most frequent questions and challenges I have encountered in teaching and lecturing about these topics, with the intention to improve understanding, reduce simplistic denunciation, and provide a solid grounding for those who decide to support reform efforts. For people outside the cultural contexts where female circumcision is still practiced, developing understanding requires much more than merely knowing the facts or arriving at a philosophic position for or against. To allow readers more opportunity to consider the social contexts and the human experience, I include narratives and examples from my ethnographic research in Sudan.

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