Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery

By David L. Gollaher | Go to book overview

EIGHT
Female Circumcision

The operation of circumcision in girls consists in the bloody amputation and extirpation of the clitoris, as well as its prepuce, and in the amputation of the labia minora and the entrance of the vagina.

-- H. Ploss, Das Weib in Natur- und Voelkerkunde ( 1887)

THE MOST RECENT CHAPTER IN THE ANCIENT SAGA OF FEMALE CIRCUMCISION MAY be said to have begun in 1994 when a seventeen-year-old Muslim woman named Fauziya Kassindja arrived at Newark International Airport from the Republic of Togo. She was traveling with a false passport, and when she arrived desperately approached immigration authorities with a plea for asylum. Her reason: if she were sent back to West Africa, Kassindja claimed, she would be forced to submit to ritual surgery on her genitals. Adding insult to injury, this was to be preparation for an arranged marriage to a much older man who already had three wives. Immigration officials, unimpressed with her story, threw her into the Esmoor detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where at the hands of guards and keepers she endured a series of stark, humiliating cruelties. There, and later in a similar facility in Pennsylvania, she languished for two years while her appeal worked its way through the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) bureaucracy. In the meantime, however, the news of her ordeal spread, calling fresh attention to the plight of millions of women and girls around the world who quietly endured various genital cutting procedures known as female circumcision.

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Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • One - The Jewish Tradition 1
  • Two - Christians and Muslims 31
  • Three - Symbolic Wounds 53
  • Four - From Ritual to Science 73
  • Five - The Fabric of the Foreskin 109
  • Six - Circumcision and Disease: the Quest for Evidence 125
  • Seven - Backlash 161
  • Eight - Female Circumcision 187
  • Appendix - Evaluative Research and the Nature of Medical Evidence 209
  • Notes 213
  • Index 241
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