FAQ

GENERAL

What is female circumcision?

Like male circumcision, female circumcision is a limited, religiously prescribed practice. Female circumcision as discussed in this website, is the ritual nicking or slight cutting of the foreskin covering the clitoris, and never the clitoris.

What is Our Proposal?

Female circumcision is a religious rite and is not harmful. “By redrawing the line to separate the harmless and atrocious” a solution can be achieved by “focussing on the types that cause long-term harm and permitting the rest, if carried out by medical personnel.”1

We request The WHO to reconsider their nomenclature and drop the word “mutilation” in the description of such practices, as it is a prejudicial term that shuts off debate.

We also request the WHO to separate each practice, name it by its indigenous name, and research the harm or otherwise done in each practice separately. In so doing, The WHO will find that  female circumcision as described in this website is a harmless practice that neither needs eradication, nor any attention. The WHO should help in the medicalization and legalization drives of such practices so as to further increase their safety and harmlessness and This position will lead to a nuanced and more useful approach that  will aid prevention and eradication campaigns where they are really necessary and not victimize and stigmatise communities unnecessarily.

Female genital surgeries worldwide should be addressed in a larger context of discussions of health promotion, parental and children’s rights, religious and cultural freedom, gender parity, debates on permissible cosmetic alterations of the body, and female empowerment issues. 2

HARM

Does it affect sexual arousal, orgasms and one’s sex life?

There is no anatomic reason nor is there verified clinical evidence to believe female circumcision (WHO Type 1a or 4), which only involves a minor cut to the foreskin would negatively affect sexual functioning as the procedure does not affect the clitoris and other sexually sensitive organs. In fact, clitoral unhooding, in which a substantial part of the foreskin is removed, is routinely carried out to increase sexual pleasure.3 4

The Hastings Center, a non-partisan bioethics research organization based in the United States, analyzed existing literature and empirical research on female circumcision and found that a high percentage of women who had undergone female circumcision “have rich sexual lives, including desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction, and their frequency of sexual activity is not reduced”. 5

Even the magazine “Play Girl”, in one of its 1973 issues, promoted female circumcision for faster orgasms and “million dollar” sex lives. The front page of the magazine had the headline “Circumcision for Women – the Kindest Cut of All”. Cathrine Kellison had her own hood removed, and claims to know several women who had the surgery. Her article was titled, the “$100 Surgery for a Million-Dollar Sex Life”.  Kellison’s article reassures her readers about how minor a procedure it was (and how little discomfort it caused her in the healing process). It concludes with some comments on how she and others feel about their results, including the enjoyment of substantial erotic benefits as a result of the surgery. 6

“Something had happened with the usual tension, that responsibility of reaching an orgasm: the strain had been taken away. It just happened easier.”
“It’s far more sensuous, more than anything I’ve ever experienced, really”
– Cathrine Kellison, Play Girl Magazine
Does female circumcision affect childbirth?

Female circumcision has no connection with childbirth. 7 8 As only the prepuce of the clitoris is nicked, the birth canal is not touched at all. From the time of conception of the baby to the time when the childbirth takes place, the nick on the prepuce has no influence on pregnancy, as the entire process involves female hormones which are released from the uterus and ovaries which do not take part in female circumcision. Millions of Muslim women around the world who have undergone circumcision enjoy their sex lives, have healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy children.

What about all the women who have had female circumcision who report difficulties with sexual relations as adults?

Unfortunately, female sexual dysfunction is extremely common 9 and is seen in societies that practice genital cutting as well as those that do not. For example, sexual dysfunction rates for women in the United States are reported as 43%, in Japan 57.9%, in India 64.3%, in Iran 46.2%, in Egypt 52.8%, in Turkey 48.3% and in Australia 60%.10 The causes of female sexual dysfunction are not completely understood but are thought to be heavily influenced by other illnesses and hormonal, social, psychological, and cultural factors.11 It is therefore likely that some women who have experienced female circumcision may also experience sexual dysfunction but this does not necessarily mean that their circumcision led to their dysfunction. Correlation does not equal causation. Finally, by fixating solely on circumcision as the cause of their sexual dysfunction women may inadvertently overlook other potential treatable conditions that could improve their sexual experiences.

CONSENT

Do parents have the right to interfere with their daughter’s body without her consent?

In all societies, there is a balance between informed consent and parental rights. And it is also generally accepted that parental rights ought to be applied equally to children of both sexes. However, this is not the case with the way the Western world has framed the circumcision discourse. Male circumcision is routinely done without the infant’s consent; it is more invasive and the child is typically younger in countries such as USA. Parents determine what is in the best interests of the child. In the case of female circumcision however, a discriminative approach is the norm, where the right of parents over their child is questioned.

Gender bias with regards to a practice with similar benefits and risks for both sexes is an artificial distinction. Besides circumcision there are many “interferences” parents make with regards to their child’s body. From vaccinations to piercing ears, parents are hardly expected to ask their child for consent. Arguments for these non-consensual, accepted practices pertain to their proven merit or that they are not harmful, even if on closer scrutiny, some of them may even cause harm. The same argument goes for female circumcision; it is deemed to have religious merit by the parents, and is not harmful.

Are girls lied to before being circumcised?

It is possible that to avoid panic and stress, parents tell their children fibs such as “we have to remove a worm from down there”, or that “we have to have an infection seen to”. Even if it is more difficult, it would be better for parents to tell the child the truth and explain that the procedure is minor and will involve no pain, just as they would for an inoculation or ear piercing. Parents can, for example, follow the same guidelines that one would use to explain to a child before receiving an injection. Read: 7 Tips to Help Kids Overcome Fear of Needle Shots.

ISLAM

Is female circumcision performed to “curb” sexual pleasure?

Is female circumcision performed to “curb” sexual pleasure?

No. The Islamic practice of female circumcision is not carried out to curb sexual pleasure. Its has a deep spiritual significance that is related to spiritual purity and is not related in anyway to sexuality. If fact, the Prophet specifically instructed practitioners to minimize the procedure to ensure that sexual function was in no way negatively affected.12 In fact, since reduction of a clitoral hood is associated with a heightened sexual sensitivity, any reduction of the clitoral hood by the Islamic circumcision nick would enhance, rather than curb, sexual pleasure.

Isn’t female circumcision a pre-Islamic practice? How can it be part of Islam?

Islam traces many of its traditions to the lineage of Prophets that came before the Prophet Mohammed. The Quran also states that the tradition of the Prophet Mohammed follows the “path” of the Prophet Ibrahim (Quran 1:135). Therefore, there are many Islamic traditions that have their roots from times pre-dating the Prophet Mohammed.

For example, the Hajj, prayers and fasting, all have their roots in Abrahamic traditions. Circumcision (both male and female) is no different.

Why is female circumcision not mentioned in the Quran?

Neither male nor female circumcision are mentioned in the Quran, they 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 either (including prayer, fasting, zakaat, hajj etc).  For example, the Quran only orders Muslims to “pray”, but nowhere in the Quran does it elaborate that one should pray 5 times a day, or how one should pray. Similarly, the Quran does not explain how one should circumvent the holy ka’ba during the tawaaf. Instead, all these details are provided in the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (the sunnah). So the Quran cannot define Islam without the sunnah13 The same goes for male and female circumcision,  they are explicitly mentioned in the sunnah, and this cannot be ignored. Therefore, it is illogical to reject female circumcision simply because it’s not in the Quran, but at the same time ignore that male circumcision isn’t mentioned in the Quran either. 

It is no more possible to define Islam within the four corners of the Quran than to define Christianity (which includes traditions ranging from Presbyterian to Pentecostal to Greek Orthodoxy) solely from a reading of the Bible. Rather, the content of religious belief and practice are guided by interpretive texts and traditions. Thus, many Muslim scholars classify Female Genital Alteration (FGA) as ‘Sunnah’ or practice established by the Prophet Muhammad. Though not prescribed explicitly in the Quran, the practice thus is religiously virtuous. In fact, the colloquial term for FGA procedures in Arabic refers to a ritual state of purity.” 14
Why do some Islamic scholars say that there is no role for female circumcision in Islam?

Like all large religions, variations in practice and belief occur within the larger body of Islamic belief. There is no single authority on all Islamic practice. Many well respected authorities within the Islamic community have affirmed the importance of circumcision for both boys and girls.

 

Citations

  1. Economist, T. n.d.Female genital cuttingThe unkindest cut. The Unkindest Cut. Retrieved June 17, 2017, from http://www.economist.com/news/international/21700631-rite-passage-ranges-symbolic-awful-where-should-line-be-drawn
  2. Seven things to know about female genital surgeries in Africa, The Public Policy Advisory Network on Female Genital Surgeries in Africa. Available at: http://bit.ly/2tDS0Ij
  3. 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
  4. n.d.Clitoral Unhooding, or Hoodectomy Is Also Known as Clitoral Circumcision. Retrieved June 17, 2017, from http://clitoralunhooding.com/clitoral-unhooding.html
  5. Seven things to know about female genital surgeries in Africa, The Public Policy Advisory Network on Female Genital Surgeries in Africa. Available at: http://bit.ly/2tDS0Ij 
  6. Kellison, Cathrine. “Circumcision for Women.” Playgirl 1.5 (October, 1973). 76, 124-125 and Kellison, Cathrine. “$100 Surgery for a Million-Dollar Sex Life.” Playgirl 2.12 (May, 1975).  52-55.
  7.  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 
  8. Is there an association between female circumcision and perinatal death, Essén, Birgitta. Available at: http://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/80(8)629.pdf 
  9. A systematic review of the literature on female sexual dysfunction prevalence and predictors, West SL1, Vinikoor LC, Zolnoun D
  10. Sexual dysfunction in the Australian population. Najman JM, et al. Aust Fam Physician. 2003.
  11. Female sexual dysfunction, Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-sexual-dysfunction/symptoms-causes/syc-20372549 
  12.  The Practice of Female Circumcision, https://femalecircumcision.org/the-practice-of-female-circumcision/ 
  13. (2013, February 24). Quran Without Sunnah Is Not Real Islam. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from https://muslimvillage.com/2013/02/25/36040/should-muslims-be-sufficed-with-the-quran-without-the-sunnah/
  14. Arora KS, Jacobs AJ. Female genital alteration: a compromise solution. Journal of Medical Ethics (2016).