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The Issue of Female Circumcision and FGM

The interview of Fuambai Ahmadu opened up interesting perspectives regarding the issue of Female Genital Mutilation FGM. It is true that the dominant view in the West purported by liberal feminists has shaped discourse completely against any form of Female Circumcision or Excision, to the point that State Authorities are to be used in order to prevent anyone from engaging in the practice, regardless of how safe it is practiced or whether it is done out of consent for cultural or religious practices or not.

Ahmadu discussed the cultural beliefs of the Kono people in Sierra Leone, in which circumcision marks the transition of young boys and girls into adult men and women. It is a ceremony where men and woman celebrate their differences and belittle and ridicule each other’s sexual superiority in a light-hearted manner. Excisions that remove the external glans and hood mark the transition for girls, which carries symbolic value in the Kono people’s culture. That is not considered oppression but a reason to celebrate female sexuality and the female sex itself in their cultural ethos.

Ahmadu’s argument that all the reasons that are suggested for male circumcision that have led to it becoming almost a norm in male parts of the world apply similarly to female genitals (Shweder). The reasons that are usually cited are hygienic and aesthetical appearance. The same holds true for female circumcision with a slight removal of labial and clitoral tissue, which results in better hygiene and less bacterial infection. What is most interesting to note is that Ahmadu brings up research to support the view that female genital excision and circumcision do not have any effect on sexual pleasure, childbirth, or any physical deficiency, and it is, more often than not, media sensationalism and rhetoric that favors one view over the other. Experiments conducted on limited sample sizes did not demonstrate repeatability in their results, whereas different studies conducted to measure any harmful effects of female circumcision on a control group showed that there were no significant harmful changes that occurred. Women with circumcised genitals were demonstrated to engage in normal sexual intercourse as well as experience orgasm.

Personally, I find myself largely agreeing with Ahmadu’s views, provided the excision and cuts are done only at a minor level. Certainly, practices like infibulation are harmful, but the tendency by those seeing themselves as politically correct on the issue to regard all forms of female circumcision to be FGM, and therefore banned, is neither supported by scientific evidence nor is it consistent with individual liberty. The fact that cosmetic genital surgeries are seen as Kosher by most feminists, whereas cultural or religious forms of circumcision that are kept within a safe medical practice are regarded as oppression, points towards double standards towards how they approach the issue.

Works Cited

Shweder, Richard A. “Disputing the myth of the sexual dysfunction of circumcised women.” Anthropology Today December 2009: 14-17. <http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/19/a-compromise-on-female-circumcision/>.

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