Articles on Shifting Sands
Myths and Facts on Female Circumcision
Myth: The WHO’s definition of FGM is founded on the fact that there is evidence to show that all forms of genital cutting cause harm.
Fact: The WHO cannot advance a single clinical study showing Islamic female circumcision, that is a nick, cut or excision of the prepuce, is harmful.
Myth: Those fighting for the exclusion of female circumcision from the definition of FGM and its recognition as an unrelated practice are religious extremists who are personally invested in the narrative.
Fact: Eminent sociologists, gynaecologists and academics have asked for a review of the WHO’s classification that feeds false information to anti-FGM policies. Richard Schweder2, Juliet Rogers3, Fuambai Ahmadu, Lucrezia Catania4, Brian Earp5, Sara Johnsdotter, Betinna Sheldon-Duncan et al, have widely written that anti-FGM policies are based largely on emotion and not on fact or scientific study, use narratives and labels that give false descriptions to women who choose to practice it, fail to deliver gender parity, fail to be sensitive to cultural norms, and label it patriarchal and abusive without real evidence.
Myth: Islamic female circumcision is much worse than male circumcision.
Fact: Outside of the sex of the person undergoing circumcision, there is very little difference between the organ that is affected in both male and female circumcision. The prepuce in females and the foreskin in males are homologous6. However, whilst Islamic female circumcision limits the practice to a nick or slight excision of the prepuce, male circumcision traditionally calls for the removal of a large part of the foreskin.
Myth: Women who have undergone circumcision also suffer from impaired sex lives.
Fact: There is no anatomic reason to believe female circumcision (WHO Type 1a or 4) would negatively affect sexual functioning as Islamic female circumcision does not involve the clitoris and other sexually sensitive organs. Rather, clitoral unhooding, a reduction of the prepuce, is routinely carried out to increase sexual pleasure.9 10
Myth: All girls are lied to before they are circumcised.
Fact: It is not accepted nor encouraged for young girls to be lied to about the significant religious experience of circumcision.
Myth: Circumcision is not mentioned in the Quran and is therefore a cultural, not religious, practice.
Fact: Neither male nor female circumcision is mentioned in the Quran. However, male and female circumcision are explicitly prescribed by the Prophet in the sunnah (Prophetic traditions). Details for a broad range of Islamic practices are not explicitly mentioned or explicated in the Quran (including prayer, fasting, zakaah, hajj etc) but are accepted religious practice as they are detailed in the sunnah.
- Arora KS, Jacobs AJ. Female genital alteration: a compromise solution. Journal of Medical Ethics2016;42:148-154.
- Richard A. Shweder (2013) The goose and the gander: the genital wars, Global Discourse, 3:2, 348-366, DOI: 10.1080/23269995.2013.811923
- Juliet B Rogers. The First Case Female Genital Alteration in Australia Where Is The Harm? AltLJ Vol 41:4 2016 235-238
- Catania L, Abdulcadir O, Puppo V, Baldaro Verde J, Abdulcadir J, and Abdulcadir D. Pleasure and orgasm in women with female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). J Sex Med 2007;4:1666–1678.
- Earp, Brian & Steinfeld, Rebecca. (2017). Gender and genital cutting: a new paradigm. in press.
- Sloane, Ethel (2002). Biology of Women. Cengage Learning. p. 32. ISBN 0766811425; Crooks, Robert; Baur, Karla (2010). Our Sexuality. Cengage Learning. p. 54. ISBN 0495812943; Mulhall, John P. (2011). John P. Mulhall, Luca Incrocci, Irwin Goldstein, Ray Rosen, eds. Cancer and Sexual Health. Springer. pp. 13–22. ISBN 1-60761-915-6.
- No association between female circumcision and prolonged labour: a case control study of immigrant women giving birth in Sweden, Essén, Birgitta. Available at: http://www.ejog.org/article/S0301-2115(04)00659-1/abstract
- Is there an association between female circumcision and perinatal death, Essén, Birgitta. Available at: http://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/80(8)629.pdf
- n.d.Reduction of Excess Prepuce. Reduction of Excess Prepuce or Clitoral Hood Reduction, Dr. Jennifer Hayes | Florida | Cosmetic Gynecology. Retrieved June 17, 2017, from http://visionarycentreforwomen.com/services/cosmetic-gynecology-cat/reduction-of-excess-prepuce.html
- n.d.Clitoral Unhooding, or Hoodectomy Is Also Known as Clitoral Circumcision. Retrieved June 17, 2017, from http://clitoralunhooding.com/clitoral-unhooding.html
This was first published on Female Circumcision’s website and is reproduced here with permission. 4 June 2018
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