Frontiers of Medicine in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1899-1940

By Heather Bell | Go to book overview

general public opinion against the practice.115 As civil secretary (from November 1939), he established the Civil Secretary's Standing Committee on Female Circumcision.116 The second factor was that this time the Mufti agreed to issue a fetwa. Declaring pharaonic circumcision a 'mutilation' which was therefore 'categorically forbidden', it appeared on 31 July 1939 in al Nil newspaper.117 Department of education officials distributed the fetwa while on trek during the war,118 but the public government campaign against pharaonic circumcision was launched in earnest on 1 March 1945, with the publication of a bilingual pamphlet authored by Sudanese and British doctors, with forewards by the governor-general, the Mufti, Sayyid 'Ali al-Mirghani, and Sayyid 'Abd Rahman at-Mahdi (posthumous son of the Mahdi and al-Mirghani's arch-rival).119 Sudanese support and the apolitical veneer of medicine clearly continued to be vital. The 1946 law prohibiting pharaonic circumcision, passed on the recommendation of the Sudanese men who constituted the Northern Sudan Advisory Council, proved unenforceable. But anti-circumcision propaganda continued to be disseminated in schools and on educational tours conducted by Sudanese staff midwives and schoolmistresses throughout the 1940s.120

Overall, this evidence suggests that during the inter-war period, medicine and midwifery only ever featured peripherally in the discussion of what was defined fundamentally as a political issue. The Wolff sisters were considered a useful source of information, and their apparently apolitical status sometimes made them convenient covers for inaction. But they had no role in the political sphere where decisions about government policy on female circumcision were being made. Political action depended on the political will of men, namely Sudanese religious leaders and senior British political officials.


CONCLUSION

The poverty of inter-war maternal mortality data and the absence of a pre-MTS baseline mean that it is impossible to make a quantitative assessment of the school's achievements. While her account must be re

____________________
115
Douglas Newbold to Civil Secretary, 3 Nov. 1938, SAD 761/4/1-7.
116
Beasley, Before the Wind Changed, 405 n. 48.
117
Sanderson, Against the Mutilation of Women, 80-1.
118
Beasley, Before the Wind Changed, 414.
119
E. D. Pridie et al., Female Circumcision in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan ( Khartoum, 1945).
120
Muddathir 'Abd Al-Rahim, Imperialism and Nationalism in the Sudan ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 151-2; Sanderson, Against the Mutilation of Women, 81-95; Daud K. Abdalla, District Commissioner, Kassala to Governor, Kassala, 17 Sept. 1947, PP. 57-8, KASSALA 2/64/312; Beasley, Before the Wind Changed, 397 n. 36, 404-5.

-226-

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Frontiers of Medicine in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1899-1940
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations x
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xii
  • GLOSSARY xiv
  • I- The Boundaries of Colonial Medicine 1
  • 2: Medical Policy and Medical Practitioners 22
  • 3- The Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratories and the Organization Of Research 55
  • Conclusion 88
  • Conclusion 124
  • 5- Sleeping Sickness and the Ordering Of the South 127
  • Conclusion 161
  • 6- The International Construction Of Yellow Fever 163
  • Conclusion 195
  • 7- Midwifery Training and the Politics Of Female Circumcision 198
  • Conclusion 226
  • 8- Conclusion 229
  • Bibliography 234
  • Index 255
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