Female circumcision

Female circumcision is an operation on the vagina. Many people have never heard of this or don’t know exactly what it means. Prejudices and misplaced comments are therefore extremely inappropriate. These girls go through a long and painful journey from which they usually cannot escape. They are injured both mentally and physically and in the worst case they die, or unintentionally, as a result.

What is Circumcision?

  • Reasons for circumcision
  • Forms of circumcision
  • The treatment
  • Medical consequences
  • Shocking facts

Reasons for circumcision

Many people think it is because of Islam. This is not true. Circumcision does not appear in the Quran. Most women from Muslim countries do not even undergo this treatment. Usually it happens mainly in Africa. Here it occurs in 28 countries. To a slightly lesser extent you also encounter it in certain areas of the Middle East and Asia. It is now spreading all over the world through emigration. It is sometimes even performed in the Netherlands. Because the Netherlands prohibits this treatment, we do not encounter this in public. It is a fact that it mainly occurs among Muslim women. The reason for this is rather tradition, which is also one of the most frequently mentioned reasons. You also hear reasons such as: sexuality or virginity, beauty and social identity.

Circumcision is a rite of passage to adulthood. It will help the girl focus on her future roles. The pain she endures will also prepare her for her birth. Many people who maintain this tradition think that it discourages premarital intercourse. It offers the man the assurance that she is still a virgin. The woman is usually opened again on the wedding night and/or childbirth. Many are also convinced that a woman should not enjoy sexual intercourse. Many also find the result more beautiful than all those dissimilar appearances of a vagina. Some of these are convinced that the labia and clitoris are male and must therefore first be removed to become a real woman. It would otherwise hinder you from fulfilling your duties as a woman, such as getting married and having children. Others simply find it ugly and try to create the ideal image of a woman. Once girls resist it, they may be expelled from the family. In any case, they will feel like outsiders and have little chance of marriage within her community. They know the rule that the smaller the opening of the vagina, the greater the value of the dowry.

Forms of circumcision

Female circumcision takes different forms. The World Health Organization (WHO) distinguishes four forms:

  • Removal of the foreskin of the clitoris, with or without partial or complete removal of the clitoris.
  • Removal of the clitoris with partial or complete removal of the labia minora.
  • Removal of the clitoris and external genitalia and suturing/narrowing of the entrance to the vagina (infibulation or pharaonic circumcision). After suturing the remaining labia, a very small opening remains for menstrual blood and urine. Several variants of infibulation are possible; This form is most common among Somali women.
  • Other (mixed) forms, such as pricking, piercing and/or cutting the clitoris and/or labia, applying burns, introducing corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina.

In addition, the terms defibulation and reinfubilation are used in connection with female circumcision.

  • Defibulation is the act of enlarging the opening or removing the closure, usually before marriage or childbirth.
  • Reinfibulation is the reattachment of the remaining parts of the labia, including after childbirth.

The treatment

Nowadays a circumcision can be performed neatly and sterilely in a hospital. A traditional circumcision is much rougher. It is not common to use any kind of drugs or painkillers. Most girls put up a lot of resistance. This is why there are several women present, who then hold or tie her up. They use a sharp object for circumcision. Besides the knife and scissors, this could also be a piece of glass or a sharp stone. After cutting, dirt and ash are often held against the wound to stop bleeding. It is then sewn shut. In the worst case, until there is only a small hole left for urination and menstruation. To prevent the vagina from closing completely or the wound from reopening, the girl’s legs are sometimes tied up for up to forty days.

Medical consequences

Circumcision has many risks. The girls often suffer from heavy blood loss, pain and fear. In some cases the girl goes into lasting shock or dies.

Direct consequences of circumcision can be:

shock, infection, damage to the urinary tract or anus, formation of scar tissue, tetanus, bladder infections, blood poisoning, HIV and hepatitis B. These complications can kill you. You can also die immediately from too much blood loss.

Also in the longer term there are recurring complications such as:

chronic and recurring infections of the urinary tract and kidneys, which can lead to infertility, cysts and abscesses around the pubic cleft, painful nerve growths, increasingly difficult urine secretion, disturbed menstruation due to accumulation of menstrual blood in the lower abdomen, frigidity (vaginismus), or even death.

For the rest, it is absolutely impossible to reverse or undo circumcision and its consequences. They can operate on you and cut you open again. Sexual intercourse will also generally be accompanied by bleeding and a lot of pain.

Shocking facts

It is estimated that 135 million girls and women in the world are victims of female circumcision. About 6,000 girls undergo this treatment every day, which is 1 every 15 seconds. The most common age varies by country. It is certainly between 5 and 10 years. In any case before the first menstruation.

It is a fact that a lot of female circumcision is still being practiced. Many consider this abuse or mutilation. It is therefore a shock to hear that 6,000 girls are circumcised every day. The reasons may be diverse, but none outweigh the possible consequences. Various actions are already being taken to combat this. By providing girls with education, an actual decrease in the numbers is achieved. They learn the truth in this tradition. Vicarious rituals are now being performed in some places. Others even dare to put a complete stop to it.

read more

  • Interview with Somali woman about circumcision
  • Waris Dirie: Fighting against female circumcision