18 thoughts on “Female Circumcision

  1. Wrong. It is a painful mutilation of young girls performed in conditions that could lead to permanent damage and should be universally condemned, not allowed to continue because of cultural sensitivity.

    Calling it female circumcision is somewhat of a euphemism, seeing as it is not comparable to the practice of male circumcision.

    I found this article on the subject interesting:


  2. The practice is wrong – unequivocally. But the question you asked is somewhat of a cultural trap – of course I see it as wrong, but to the parents of the child to whom it is being done, it is a cultural norm.

    However, it serves no health purpose and causes harm and pain (sometimes lifelong pain).

    Should we force people who practice it to change? I think that is a harder question. I think it is acceptable to help groups who practice it to change – through increasing the understanding of the consequences and allowing them to judge for themselves whether the perceived ‘benefits’ outweigh the risks.

    We’re not dealing with ‘stupid’ people after all, just a different set of preconceptions.

  3. Wrong. Culturally “determined”…which I think has a whole other meaning than the denotation of “determined”… However it is something that requires a journey for people to change. It isn’t something we should waltz in, condemn, demand compliance, waltz out and trumpet our “success”. Sensitivity…we need sensitivity even in these areas where the decisions are CLEAR from our perspective.

  4. wrong.

    working in The Gambia, in the villages up country 98% of girls are ‘circumsised’. I was doing IT stuff and youth work, but living on a nursing station. The stories of the horrible mutilations, the deadly infections and then the life long health issues that follow.

    the general ‘customary’ feel of the circumsision these days amongst Gambian men is that it stops women activly seeking sexual relationships… so they know when they marry a woman she won’t cheat on them… circumsision takes away all sexual enjoyment for women, and causes them pain during sex. so the men can enjoy it all they want… knowing their women won’t activly seek it with another man because it hurts them.

    It complicates pregnacy and so many women in The Gambia die in childbirth as a direct result of being circumsised.

    It’s a horrible horrible thing… and i guess i got a real idea of how horrible from my experiences living amongst the people.

  5. Wrong on so many levels … but as a woman I have great difficulty assessing it objectively. I believe it to be a cultural norm that cannot be changed overnight. But neither can we just throw up our hands and think nothing can be done because it might go against someone’s beliefs. It’s deeply harmful, painful and horrible … like, um, slavery which is also considered acceptable in many cultures.

  6. oh as a P.S

    Missionaries working in The Gambia continually condem the practise… but the nursing stations offer immediate help with anyone who has just been circumsised and needs attention.

    to the point where the village men let the nursing station know when they will be circumsising their women so they can be checked out afterwards.

    so it’s not a condem and ignore… but a continue loving, but not compromise on the welfare of the people.

  7. wrong wrong wrong…

    just as there are many wrong things that we do in our culture.

    I did a whole oral presentation on this subject at school in yr 12. I think i may have got the guys to keep their pants on a little longer 😉

  8. Ok…

    I am aware as Bek says that some aspects of every culture are destructive.

    We (in the west) would certainly see this as pretty terrible. Yet for some reason it continues – and if I understand correctly women perform the procedure?

    Grendel’s question is probably the one I was getting at – if we believe it is wrong how do we a) prove that b) help people change?

    Obviously some are not convinced it is wrong.

    But then how do you shift a cultural practice?

    I am trying to think of something equivalent in our own society, but can’t seem to find a match. ANyone any ideas?

  9. Well Hamo to find a match you need to find a practice that is harmful, serves no useful purpose and can cause life long pain.

    AFL anyone?

  10. This isn’t directly connected but our response to sexual promiscuity is similar.

    If a girl has multiple partners she’s a slut. If a guy does he’s a legend.

    It serves to degrade women.

    Also, the whole sex industry does the same thing. It creates a culture where women are serving men’s pleasure, and instead of being “real people” they’re just plastic.

    I’m dribbling a bit, but it’s my take on Hamo’s question.

  11. Mark, you’re not going to be able to draw me into fierce debate on that one – drinking coffee is my way of showing my compassion for farmers in the developing world. . .

  12. I dont think its just women that perform the circumcision, in some cases it is the families male elders, doing to girls as young as 3.

    I see the whole thing as a way to control women. Some women can die from this because of the ‘tools’ used (ie, scissors, broken glass, knives). Also, its kind of a way that the men are trying to take control of their wives. Maybe like how islamic women can’t show their ankles (I think thats right…sorry if its not) and maybe how men try control women in our society is by…I dont know…fill it in for me…do you get my train of thought though?

    I dont know…I cant think of anything in our western culture. Maybe the immodesty of what women wear?? I dont know.

    Maybe, heres just a thought, when your IN that culture, you cant see it?

  13. When you are in the culture it is harder to see it.

    I would argue that comparative things are hard to find in our culture because we have strong beliefs about the role and the rights of the individual in society – thus any action that is perceived as causing unnecessary harm to another person for whatever reason is viewed negatively.

    True comparisons are harder therefore and we would need to seek more broadly to find an action or actions that might be equally wrong.

    I am thinking along the lines of corporate greed or malfeasance or the willingness of ‘Western’ society to continue to consume resources at unsustainable rates – and encourage this level of consumption in the developing world to ensure markets grow.

    In this respect we are condemning whole generations of young girls (and boys) to be victims of the things that consumerism drives – and in the developing world we will perpetuate poverty.

    Tangentally I guess I am really trying to say that we like to focus on how one individual harms another while ignoring the harm-on-a-global-scale that we live within.

    I still think FGM is wrong though.

  14. “harmful, serves no useful purpose and can cause life long pain.”

    I wonder if we could easily make a case for alcohol?

    It is indisputably one of the wreckers of the western world, but still we drink more and more.

    I dunno.

    I just wonder how (as Fletch says) we navigate the cultural understanding of people so different to ourselves.

  15. The issue isn’t so much culturally determined, as culturally protected. There are any number of issues that are culturally protected around the world – such as honour killings etc. We have our own don’t worry about that! If you don’t get where I am driving at ask questions about what the courts decide on issues of life/when it begins or ends etc. Rulings are made and the issue then becomes culturally protected – it’s just that the culture is western secularism.

    The problem becomes when culture is deemed to be the determinant of what is right and wrong. Some things are wrong across cultures (but we can only believe that if we hold to a transcendent view of what is right and wrong). The next question is who determines for who? For instance, in Germany in the 1930’s, was anti-Semitism a cultural issue or an over-arching moral one? In other words, it’s no use throwing up our hands in horror at these things if we won’t acknowledge some moral framework outside of our own making that transcends all cultures. And that view is anathema to many in the western world right now

  16. I agree Steve.

    I am often puzzled when people call something ‘wrong’ and yet at the same time would not accept any absolutes.

    If there are no absolutes then it would seem logical that there can only be preferences in regard to morality.

  17. Follow up report on Reuters a couple of days ago:

    “MAGHAGHA, Egypt (Reuters) – It was a routine procedure undertaken by thousands of Egyptian girls every year, but something went wrong and Budour Ahmed Shaker died while having her genitals cut in a rite known locally as “purification”.

    The death of the 11-year-old schoolgirl at a private clinic in the Egyptian village Mughagha in June prompted the government to outlaw the custom of female genital mutilation, which is so widespread in Egypt that 95 percent of the country’s women are estimated to have undergone the procedure.

    But the ban may be hard to enforce and activists fear the practice may go underground as the vast majority of Egyptian families still view circumcision as necessary to protect girls’ chastity. Most girls are cut by the time they reach puberty.”

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