Female genital mutilation is the collective name given to several different traditional practices that involve the cutting of female genitals. It is important to remember that this procedure is commonly performed on girls anywhere between the ages of four and twelve years of age and in some cultures as early as a few days after birth and as late as just after prior to marriage or after the pregnancy.
Girls may be circumcised alone or with a group of peers from their community.
Although traditionally performed by traditional practitioners, more recently in some countries it is also performed by trained personnel.
Indigenous populations use a variety of terms in local dialects to describe this practice. These are often synonymous with purification or cleansing, such as the terms tahara in
Egypt, tahur in Sudan and bolokoli in . Local terminology for types
of FGM also varies widely among countries. Mali
In literature from
for example, clitoridectomy is referred to as sunna, and infibulations is
referred to as pharaonic. Sudan
In literature associated with French speaking
Africa, FGM is
commonly known as excision.
Lately the term female genital mutilation has been widely used. Although the term female genital mutilation has been effective, organisations and individuals like me working with FGM practising communities that this term can be offensive or even shocking to women who have never considered the practice as mutilation.
The term female circumcision may seem to imply an analogy with male circumcision. Although both practices are a violation of a child’s rights to physical integrity, these two practices are different. Male circumcision is the cutting off of the foreskin from the tip of the penis without damaging the organ itself. The degree of cutting in female circumcision is anatomically much more extensive. The male equivalent of clitoridectomy, in which all or part of the clitoris is removed, would be the amputation of most of the penis.
The male equivalent of infibulations- which involves not only clitoridectomy, but the removal or closing off of the sensitive tissue around the vagina-would be removal of the entire penis, its roots of soft tissue and part of the scrotal skin.
Food for thought!