In my first blog post, I briefly mentioned Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt. I feel that it’s important to speak about the sick procedure for two reasons: First, Female Genital Mutilation is a largely sexist act that can lead to serious long-term physical, and mental, health consequences. Second, more than 227,000 American women were at risk, or had undergone, Female Genital Mutilation – many African women seek asylum and refuge in the United States to escape Female Genital Mutilation in their countries. Consequently, with the current anti-refugee climate in the United States, it’s become increasingly important to raise awareness about the Female Genital Mutilation crisis in Africa.
First, as always, I’d like to give an explanation of what actually is Female Genital Mutilation, where it’s done, and why it’s considered unethical and sexist. Female Genital Mutilation is the act of partially, or totally, removing the external female genitalia for non-medical purposes. Female Genital Mutilation constitutes four different types with the first being a “minor procedure” and the fourth being the most extreme and detrimental. Type I refers to a partial or total removal of the clitoris. Type II is when there’s a total removal of the clitoris, labia minora, and sometimes the labia majora. Type III is when the labia minora, and/or labia majora are removed with or without the clitoris – this is also followed by the narrowing of the vaginal opening by sewing the two sides together. Type IV includes all other harmful procedures such as cauterization, scraping, or piercing.
Female Genital Mutilation usually comes with major blood loss, tissue swelling, urinary problems, blood infections, and possibly death. In addition, women who underwent the procedure have difficulty giving birth and there’s an increased risk of newborns dying during childbirth. Moreover, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other psychological issues aren’t all that uncommon either. To sum it all up, there are no health benefits whatsoever to Female Genital Mutilation. So the question still stands: Why are women’s genitals being mutilated?
There are various unjustifiable reasons for Female Genital Mutilation. In Egypt, Female Genital Mutilation is done to girls who just hit puberty and it’s usually to maintain the woman’s ‘dignity’ – by removing certain parts of the female’s genitals, she will have less sexual desire and her future husband can be sure that she’s ‘pure’. Meanwhile, in Kenya, Female Genital Mutilation is done as part of the marriage ceremony to women aged 18 – 20 and is used to rid the woman of her ‘male-related parts’ so she can achieve ‘full womanhood’. Thus, the reasons vary from culture to culture. However, the main issue still stands as a problem in certain African and Middle Eastern countries.It’s under the general assumption that oppression of females, and Female Genital Mutilation, is an Islamic problem simply due to misinformation and data fabrication. Yes, it is true that Female Genital Mutilation happens in Sudan, Somalia, and Egypt – all Muslim-majority countries. However, many other Christian nations also practice Female Genital Mutilation in large proportions. For instance, 89% of women in Eritrea, a Christian-majority country, undergo Female Genital Mutilation, and 60% of those women view it as a religious requirement. In addition, 74% of women in Ethiopia, 66% of women in Liberia, and 27% of women in Kenya, have undergone Female Genital Mutilation – all Christian-majority countries. Here’s a most interesting statistic: In Niger, 55% of Christian women undergo Female Genital Mutilation, as compared to only 2% of Muslim women. (All statistics are from here)
Now some of you might be thinking that since certain women do it voluntarily, shouldn’t we grant them their freedom and let them be? Isn’t this the same thing as wearing a hijab, after all? My answer to that is no. Women wearing the hijab aren’t at a higher risk of tetanus or urinary infections. Also, no pregnant woman, or newborn, has ever died during childbirth because the mother was wearing a hijab. The problem is that most of the women who volunteer to be mutilated do not know the underlying risks of Female Genital Mutilation. In Sudan, women with no education are four times more likely to undergo the practice; in Kenya, 41% of women who have been cut think that Female Genital Mutilation has benefits. Thus, informing and educating the public could go a long way towards ending the cultural practice.
Now the previous facts and statistics weren’t to bash Christians or Christianity. Rather, it is to draw a clear distinction between religion and culture. While religious reasons are always cited, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever in the Qur’an, Torah, Bible, or any other religious text to support that. In addition, the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in other nations of the same religious dominance is so extremely low, and even prohibited, that the religious argument does not support the act. The fact that Female Genital Mutilation is centered around Africa (and two Middle Eastern countries) goes to prove that it is definitely a cultural problem, not a religious one.