Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Topic 4: Female Genital Mutilation

It is hard to approach the traditions of other countries as an outsider, and condone them as wrong or barbaric without seeming unduly judgemental or insensitive, in general. It may not even be the place of the western world to interfere with such systems, but I believe they are calling for change--if not from without than from within the societies themselves. Genital cutting is a religious and social practice in which young women, usually just reaching puberty, or a little before (although sometimes the procedure is done on adults as well) have parts of their female genitalia removed.

There are four different general ways that this procedure is classified, depending on how much is cut or removed. The main reasons for it seem to involve aesthetics, a cutting down of female promiscuity (as sexual stimulation from the clitoris is drastically or completely reduced) and guarantee of virginity, with the fourth kind, which makes intercourse impossible without first cutting through old scar tissue.

According to the World Health Organization:

Between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world are estimated to have undergone such procedures, and 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year.

Many women defend the practice, but it strongly benefits a patriarchal agenda that involves keeping control of women's bodies and sexual lives. However, in cultures where it is implimented, it can be highly problematic to refuse the procedure, as it often means a lesser status and has other social reprocussions.


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