Female Circumcision: A Silent Plight in the Name of Tradition

26 February 2019
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Female Circumcision: A Silent Plight in the Name of Tradition

Some countries have strong traditional beliefs that stem from hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Although we now live in the modern world where most people enjoy the benefits of technological and medical advancements, there are still individuals out there who do not. This may be due to those traditional and cultural beliefs that are still practiced until today.

Unfortunately, most of these traditional practices affect women in a way that they are left scarred and traumatized for life. Even if there is no medical purpose or benefits to it whatsoever, such practices still persist up to this day – sadly, at the price of women’s health and overall safety.

One of these traditions that still exist until now – at least in some countries – is female circumcision. This article will discuss what it is, why it is done, and should it be done in the first place.

What is female circumcision?

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as “female circumcision”, is a procedure that involves partly or totally removing the external female genitalia, mostly for cultural or traditional purposes. According to the World Health Organization, there are different types of FGM – clitoridectomy, excision, infibulation, and other methods.

  •  Clitoridectomy - removing the part or the totality of the clitoris and/or the prepuce
  •  Excision - removing a part of the totality of the clitoris, labia minora, and/or the labia majora
  •  Infibulation – narrowing the vaginal orifice using a “covering seal” made by repositioning the labia. It may not involve removing the clitoris.
  •  Other methods such as piercing, scraping, cauterizing, or pricking the genitalia

Among the above-mentioned methods, clitoridectomy and excision are the most common methods of FGM. On the other hand, infibulation is mostly common in Northern parts of Africa such as in Somalia, Djibouti, and northern Sudan.

FGM involves using sharp tools such as special knives and scissors, or even pieces of glass or razor blades. Usually, there is no use of anesthetics and antiseptics while the procedure is ongoing, but these are present when the method is handled by medical practitioners.

Where FGM is commonly practiced

FGM is more popularly known to be practiced in African countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. However, there are also other countries outside Africa that follow this said tradition, including select areas in Eastern Europe, Latin America, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.

As of date, there are around 200 million women and girls who have undergone FGM – and still counting.

Why FGM is performed

FGM is usually a manifestation of gender inequality, of which men and women usually follow this tradition without question. Otherwise, anyone who doubts this practice may have to face harsh consequences from their community. Sadly, this method is still being practiced even if a lot of people are aware of its harmful health consequences, mostly out of fear of social discrimination.

Among reasons why FGM is practiced are the following:

  1. It is said that FGM controls a woman’s sexuality, to ensure virginity prior to marriage, and to increase sexual pleasure among men.
  1. It is also said that FGM is part of a girl’s transition to womanhood. Also, there is this belief that an uncut clitoris will grow into a penis, and that it can help increase fertility rate among women.
  1. Some communities think that the external female genitalia are dirt and ugly, hence it should be removed apparently to improve hygiene and its appearance.
  1. FGM is said to stem from certain religious beliefs, although it is not really taught in Christianity or Islamic teachings.
  1. FGM is also linked to socio-economic practices. In some countries, for example, a woman who underwent a FGM procedure can have the right for inheritance. It can also be because it is the FGM practitioner’s major source of income.

Impact among women

For girls and women who have undergone FGM, it has caused devastating effects especially on physical and psychological aspects. For one, girls who underwent this practice may experience trauma and behavioral changes that they may carry on as they grow older. Women, on the other hand, may also experience depression and anxiety as well as marital issues due to sexual dysfunction.

Sadly, more and more women speak out about the devastating effects of FGM and that they demand this practice be abolished before it’s too late. Some told of its horrific impact it has done with those who underwent the procedure. Fortunately, these women were able to survive the ordeal and lived on to tell others about this unjustifiable practice.


Rich traditional and cultural backgrounds serve as an important backbone of a nation. Such practices stem as far as thousands of years ago, which have helped mold the nation and its people into what they are today. Likewise, such colorful and unique traditions set them apart from the rest of the world.

These are supposed to be celebrated as part of a nation’s identity. However, some traditions can cause shame and trauma among its people, including the practice of FGM. While there are still people who are for this practice, more and more people are starting to speak against this dangerous and potentially life-threatening tradition.

For one, it has no medical proof that it can do better for women and girls who undergo the practice. Nonetheless, there should be some other way to implement similar practices without compromising the health and overall safety of individuals, regardless of gender.

At the end of the day, culture and traditions can still be adapted in this ever-changing world – and that such practices should consider the overall safety of everyone in all aspects, above everything else.

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