Questioning Genital Mutilation

When you hear about genital mutilation, “female” generally precede it.  In a recent New York Times article about the prevalence of female genital mutilation in the U.S. among Dawoodi Bohra women.  Dawoodi Bohra is a sect of Islam; and according to the article, genital cutting is not in the Quran and not widely practiced among Muslims.  Genital cutting stirs anti-Muslim sentiment.

Info. on Female Genital Mutilation mostly from NCIB

  • Other names for female genital mutilation (controversial term) include genital cutting (from NYT article), female circumcision (controversial/deceptive term), and traditional or ritual female genital surgery (neutral term)
  • Procedure was practiced from the 16th BCE, predating Islam, and is practiced by many groups
  • The practice is controversial
  • The procedure is usually done on the girl from birth to 8 years old, and occasionally up to when the woman has her first child
  • What gets done varies (from cutting a bit of the clitoris to removing the clitoris, labia minora and majora and sewing the opening shut, leaving only enough space for urine and menstruation blood to exit)
  • May have started with patriarchy

Reasons why the procedure gets done from NCIB

  • Part of the culture/it’s normal
  • To be marriage material, prove chastity, or aesthetics
  • To retain one’s societal and economic status

According to NCIB, removing the foreskin of the clitoris, like with male circumcision, doesn’t show to be harmful.  However, more severe forms can lead to keloids, cysts, frequent urinary tract infections, and painful accumulation of menstrual blood in the vagina.  If the woman’s vaginal opening is sewn shut (with 2 narrow openings as mentioned toward the beginning of this post) and only opened for the first penile penetration or gets removed by a doctor, she risks tearing adjacent tissue and infection, which can be very painful.  In addition, she risks infertility in part because of frequent pelvic infections.

After reading the NCIB article, it was very informative and gave me a new perspective.  Before I read it, I can’t fathom a mother who has experienced genital mutilation herself, experienced so much physical pain as a child from this procedure and psychological trauma, would not question her religious leader about doing this to her own daughter.  Genital mutilation has been outlawed in Europe, the U.S. (1997), and  parts of Africa.  Now there are 2 doctors in Michigan are being prosecuted for genital cutting.

I remember watching an interview with an African woman (in Africa) who performed female circumcision to make additional money.  When the reporter asked her if she had enough money to provide for her family, would she continue to do this? And she answered, “No.”

After reading the NCIB article, women who have had being “closed” and view it as something that isn’t so bad, it’s like this is something that’s supposed to happen (due to social norms) and whatever symptoms and complications that come after that is also supposed to happen.

However, I still believe that women shouldn’t choose to have genital mutilation done on their daughters, especially the extreme form, done at an age where the girl will remember how painful and traumatic it is.  A woman’s life is already so difficult, so why make it even harder when you don’t have to? You’re her mother, you’re supposed to protect her.


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