Female Genital Circumcision: Medical and Cultural Considerations

By Little, Cindy M. | Journal of Cultural Diversity, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Female Genital Circumcision: Medical and Cultural Considerations


Little, Cindy M., Journal of Cultural Diversity


Abstract: Female circumcision (FC), also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), is a procedure that involves partial or complete removal of external female genitalia. The definition given by the World Health Organization (WHO) states that female circumcision "comprise all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons" (WHO, 1998, p.5). The United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Population Fund, and the WHO have jointly issued a statement that FC and FGM causes unacceptable harm and issued a call for the elimination of this practice worldwide. The WHO also contends that female circumcision is a "violation of internationally accepted rights" (WHO, p.l). Female circumcision is a widespread cultural practice and affects millions of young women. Issues related to female circumcision that are of special concern are health consequences, civil rights, cultural considerations, and legal and ethical aspects. The purpose of this paper is to address the incidence of FC and FGM, the historical background, the procedure, the medical complications and cultural considerations. Legal and ethical issues of FGM will also be discussed.

Key Words: Female Genital Circumcision

INCIDENCE

The incidence of FGM in women worldwide is unknown; however, rough estimates range from 114 to 130 million women. FGM is most commonly practiced in African countries where up to 90% of women in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Somalia, ana Sudan (North) have been circumcised. Other African countries such as Benin, Burkina, Paso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, and Togo have reported a - 50% incidence (WHO, 1998). This practice can also be found in the Middle East countries including the Oman, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and India. Some cultures are strictly forbidden to disclose information about their practices so data collection is inadequate. Female circumcision has been a controversial issue for thousands of years in many of the named countries, with many newer colonies prohibiting the practice.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The origins of female circumcision and female genital mutilation are unknown. It is believed that female genital mutilation originated in Africa as far back as the fifth century B.C. and has taken place in ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, Arabia, and Tsarist Russia. Ancient female Egyptian mummies were found to be circumcised, "suggesting that it was practiced as a sign of distinction" (Nour, 2000, para. 5). It was used in England during the Victorian period to treat psychological disorders and to prevent masturbation in women (Hopkins, 1999). In Europe and in the United States as late as the 1930's, "removal of the clitoris or prepuce was performed to treat clitoral enlargement, redundancy, hysteria, lesbianism, and erotomania" (Nour, para. 5).

J. Marion Sims, the "Father of Gynecology" (in the U.S.) endorsed the practice of clitorectomies well into the twentieth century. The practice of clitorectomy for psychiatric disorders became popular with Freudian psychoanalysis. Oophorectomy, or removal of the ovaries, also known as female castration, and hysterectomies were widespread as a cure for psychological disorders and continued in the U.S. until the mid-1940's.

PROCEDURE

Female circumcision is often performed by a midwife, usually an elderly woman specially trained for this task, a traditional healer, or birth attendant. Occasionally, a barber or physician may perform the surgery (Abusharaf, 2001). In countries where circumcision is common, where up to 9O0X) of women are circumcised, secret women's societies such as the Sande or Bondo (Gibeau, 1998) promote and perform the ceremonial excision. …

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 Circumcision: Medical and Cultural Considerations
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.