Saturday, May 29, 2010

How to Keep our Women Clean

Two days ago it was reported that The Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is now considering legalising the practice of female genital mutilation, in an attempt to cater to particular cultural traditions. These operations have been illegal in the country since the 1990s, but the number of children being admitted to hospitals with ruptured bladders and severe haemorrhaging as a result of illegal backyard surgeries has compelled the community to rethink the ban, and provide a “less severe” form of mutilation. Unlike male circumcision, female genital cutting offers no health benefits, and procedures are known to cause severe bleeding, difficulties urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications as well as newborn deaths. There is no doubt that the traditional method of female circumcision is an exceedingly traumatic experience for the child involved, who is likely to be aged between infancy and fifteen years old. There are several cultural and religious reasons for this practice, but my personal favourite was explained by a notable Egyptian physician, who explained that female circumcision keeps girls clean, and prevents them from running after men. Women will suffer a decreased libido, and will therefore resist any “illicit” sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed, it is trusted that the fear of pain from opening it will discourage women from pursuing premarital sex, seeking extramarital sex, and, well, enjoying sex in general.

Popular in the Middle East, female circumcision is frequently described as an “age-old Muslim ritual.” Funnily enough, there is no mention of it in the Koran, and only receives a fleeting mention in the authentic hadiths. In fact, there are no religious scripts that prescribe the practice at all. In Sudan, nine out of ten girls undergo the most severe form of circumcision, where the entire clitoris is removed, as well as most of the labia. The sides are then sutured together, often with thorns, and only a small matchstick diameter is left opened for urine and menstrual flow. After marriage, women are then forcibly penetrated by their husbands, but, thankfully, there exists special “honeymoon centres” in which the bothersome screams of virgin brides cannot be heard.

So rest assured. We, as a diverse, tolerant, and noble country, are willing to endorse blatant child abuse and excessive discrimination against women in order to meet the traditional requirements of separate cultures. While we throw up our arms and attack the bigots who try to ban the burqa, the ritualistic maiming of children on the other hand seems fine.


  1. This is an excellent article and I thank you for writing it. Fortunately, the US came to its senses and the American Academy of Pediatrics spoke clearly last week that it will oppose FGM in any form. Not even a "ritual nick" will be tolerated.

    I'd like to point out several things in response to this paragaph here.

    "Unlike male circumcision, female genital cutting offers no health benefits, and procedures are known to cause severe bleeding, difficulties urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications as well as newborn deaths. There is no doubt that the traditional method of female circumcision is an exceedingly traumatic experience for the child involved"

    1. There are no medical benefits to male circumcision.

    2. Male circumcision can also cause severe bleeding, and other complications. Including death. Approximately 200 male children die per year from circumcision. More than from SIDS or choking.

    3. Complications from infant circumcision are often not discovered until adulthood, when the genitals have fully developed. Circumcision does affect an adult man's sexual functioning, as well as that of his partner.

    4. Genital cutting of ANY child is traumatic. Regardless of the age. There simply is no justifiable reason to cut the genitals of a child- male, female, or intersex.

    I am not in any way saying that male circumcision is "worse" than female genital cutting. There is no doubt that the most extreme form of FGM is incomparable to male circ. However, there are some forms of FGM that are LESS severe, than amputation of the entire male foreskin, which we know as circumcision. This is why circumcision is a decision that belongs with the owner of the genitals. Not with the parents, or the parents' culture or religion.

    1. Male circumcision has some health benefits in that smegma (sweat, dead cells, etc.) can collect under the foreskin. Removal of the foreskin allows the prevention of this and the bacteria that can collect from smegma. This can prevent urinary tract infections in males.

      I agree with most of what you've said, just make sure to check facts first

  2. Ugh. Great post. Makes me sick to the stomach. I'm all for respecting people's religious beliefs, but this tradition is barbaric. If Australia legalizes it, well, I'm just going to lose respect for my own country all together.

  3. Mutilation of girls legalised because their parents want to break the law?
    Are they serious?
    This would be a travesty and a tragedy.

  4. The thought of this makes me sick. If God planned this at all, he'd have put it in the bible... or in the Koran. Or hell, he'd not give girls one to begin with. Obviously God planned for women to enjoy sex.


  5. Unbelievable that a country would condone this practice. Wow. I hope sane people speak up and stop this.

    Straight From Hel

  6. Totally frightening and actually unbelievable. Hard to imagine anyone allowing this.

  7. Not that I approve of the practice - legal or otherwise - but a law is only as good as the culture that follows it.

    In the US, making abortions illegal did not stop them from happening. It made getting one dangerous and expensive.

    Same with FGM, apparently. If the practice is going to continue despite its illegality, then perhaps it is time to take it back to the hospitals, where it can be done with less trauma to the child. And who knows, maybe over time, as doctors cut away less and less, the practice will fall away completely.

    Disgusting the way some societies view women as less than human. And if sex was not meant to be enjoyed, then why do we have so many pleasure centers surrounding the genitals?

    I agree with you Val; people need to speak out against this horrendous practice.


  8. I'm with DH -- making it illegal will only make it go underground. But we can't ostracise these cultures; an us-and-them mentality will only make them insular, and clinginy with their practices. It would be wiser to befriend those who are different.

  9. Great - but frightening - post.

  10. Nicely written...You have more courage than me. I couldn't do the research on this topic. It was tough to read.

  11. WTF! Not cool. I don't agree with any form of genital mutilation.

  12. I can't believe that's even being considered. What happened to women's rights? Unlike abortion, the girls who had gential mutilation didn't have a say in the matter. It was decided for them.

  13. That is horrific. I can't believe people are considering it!

  14. The more I read on this topic the sicker it makes me, but it is fraught, as has been pointed out - re going underground. No doubt it will be done anyhow, but I hate the thought that our government can give it the tick of approval...

  15. I have an Aussie friend visiting right now who is here in the U.S. to attend a uterus massage teacher training. I told her about your post, and she told me something interesting: female circumcision also affects the ovarian functions.

    Such an important issue, but so maddening- what's the solution?

  16. The solution is you leave it alone,and fight against it if it's not what you believe in .
    If it is happening in your own country.
    I don't agree with it,but that's my own opinion.

  17. This post broke my heart. Great insights though...

  18. Great post. This is such difficult stuff. Whilst I personally feel that female circumcision is an abhorent and abusive practice - that's me and my western values. But making it illegal, doesn't stop it happening and girls are still circumcised and there is no way of monitoring it. I have read some stuff about this and Sudanese women have no chance of a husband if they are not circumcised. I have no idea how you would change/re-educate or indeed whether it is appropriate to force western values on another culture because 'we know best.'
    It's as contentious issue. At least if its done by the medical profession it will be done with anaesthetic, in sterile conditions and with as little chance of trauma as possible. No Idea where the Hippocratic oath sits here and the whole issue of beneficience.
    I wouldn't like to be the legislators making this decision as its a damned if they do and damned if they don't situation.

  19. Oh my God. I feel sick. How can the Australian government even consider legalising this. They should be locking up whoever even thinks about abusing little girls this way.