Female Genital Mutilation and the Perpetuation of Multigenerational Trauma

By Raya, Patricia Diane | The Journal of Psychohistory, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Female Genital Mutilation and the Perpetuation of Multigenerational Trauma


Raya, Patricia Diane, The Journal of Psychohistory


Give me other mothers, and I will give you another world.

- St. Augustine

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an egregious form of childhood trauma that culminates in legacies of complex and multigenerational traumata. To support this proposition, I have examined FGM within the context of three frames: (1) as a tool of socioeconomic, sexual, and political oppression; (2) as complex trauma, and (3) as a tool of false consciousness. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine FGM as it occurs in the many countries and ethnic groups. Instead, I have juxtaposed FGM as it has been carried out in the United States, Sudan, and Egypt to give the reader an appreciation of the confounding complexities of this practice and the colluding systems that enable it. Regardless of where FGM occurs, the fact that it results in the traumatization of millions of children each year and engenders recursive trauma should be important to medical and mental health professionals who advocate the well-being of all children. Certainly, my immediate purpose is to inform the reader of this longstanding practice; my anticipation, however, is to initiate further discussion of the seemingly trenchant transmission of trauma by humans themselves.

INTRODUCTION TO FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

FGM is about two combustible words - females and genitalia. These words are known to foment a litany of dialectics between the inalienable and culturally relative. At the elemental level, FGM is a cutting ritual that is performed on the genitals of infants and young girls. It has been documented in parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, Europe, and the United States. In Africa alone, three million infants and girls are at risk annually of undergoing some type of genital cutting. Approximately 140 million women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM (World Health Organization, Secretariat, March 20, 2008).

FGM is gender specific trauma that subjugates and ruptures the physical, psychological, and social dimensions of a child's life. Systematic violence like FGM engenders multigenerational legacies of trauma that affect all things local, state, and global. The true outrage of FGM lies in the fact that the creative minds and tiny but mighty bodies of millions of little girls are mutilated simply because they are born female. There is no punishment for mutilating little girls, but there is severe and swift punishment for girls and women who dare to live freely. The searing pain and shock forced upon these children need to be carefully understood by those who can speak loudly and write freely about this complex and nefarious issue on behalf of those who cannot.

HISTORY OF FGM

Tahara is the Arabic colloquial word for circumcision, which means to purify (Abusharaf, 1998, p. 2). Greek historian Herodotus documented female circumcision as a ritual carried out by Egyptians, Phoenicians, Hittites, and Ethiopians in the fifth century BCE. Over the centuries, female genital cutting has been performed by different cultures on different continents during different periods of time among Coptic Christians, Muslims, animists, Black Jews of Ethiopia, and Catholic and Protestant converts in Nigeria. FGM is neither a religious nor a cultural imperative as many insist or presume. It is not advocated in the Qu'ran; the origins of FGM are unclear. It has been inferred that FGM escalated when societies became agrarian and the determination of paternity was crucial. To ensure rightful inheritance of private property, females were subjugated sexually and psychically. Female erogeneity, virginity, fidelity, and consciousness were enslaved by the dominate patriarchal forces; in other words, an unshackled female was viewed as a threat. Some anthropologists believe the practice began to ensure differences between males and females at puberty (Women and Revolution, 1992/2008, pp. 2-3). El Saadawi (2007) claims FGM originated during the slave trade and class patriarchal system (pp. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Female Genital Mutilation and the Perpetuation of Multigenerational Trauma
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.