Category Archives: Female genital cutting

For the Greater Good: Abolishing Internal Sexism in the Battle Against FGM

A Brief Foreword

Before engaging in this conversation, we must first understand that the terminology surrounding the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has traditionally presented challenges for those engaging in its discourse. Debates have been hosted in an effort to determine the legitimacy of the term “mutilation” in comparison to the term “circumcision.” It has been suggested that the term “mutilation” implies severity and, therefore, is biased against the practice; in contrast, “circumcision” has been submitted as a term that seeks to lessen the tones of brutality associated with the practice, paralleling it to male circumcision. However, throughout this particular conversation, I will employ the acronym “FGM” (understanding the use of the term “mutilation”), accepting fully its implications and nuances. This is done in an attempt to relay the true severity and violence of the practice. I have contended the necessity of this terminological consideration elsewhere (Beasley, 2014).

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has long existed as an issue of human rights among various communities of the world. Specifically, high prevalence has been identified in countries such as Somalia, Egypt and Mali (EndFGM, 2009). However, research has also identified the prevalence of the practice in industrialized settings, as well (i.e. U.S., U.K., etc.). As the battle to end this practice continues to wage, it has been made apparent that women – more often than not – stand at the front line of the struggle. Various explanations for this occurrence may exist. First, granting consideration to the notion that FGM is largely a product of patriarchal influences on the terms of cultural identity, it is perceptible that men (in those particular settings) have defended such practices as a continuation of cultural identity. Uniquely, FGM has been claimed as a practice existing to readily identify women of certain communities. Scholars have also noted the sexist, (arguably misogynistic) role of FGM as well, functioning as a way for men to control sexual stimulation, pleasure, and infidelity among women. Ethnographic work has demonstrated that, in many instances, FGM varies between ethnic groups and communities within the same regions; this may be in an effort to continue that element of cultural identification. Because of this position, men are often viewed as a hindrance to the processes involved with removing and replacing FGM with safer, healthier rights of passage for womanhood–some communities have introduced educational models to replace the traditional rights of passage (see, Ending Female Genital Mutilation – Why Education Works). 

A recent piece in Reuters, Female Genital Mutilation Is A Man’s Issue Too: Kenyan Maasai Activistnotes that men in some settings are being brought to the front lines of the battle, as well. The significance of such an effort resides in the aforementioned thought–that such practices are rooted in patriarchal influences on culture identity and rights of passage. Speaking out against FGM alongside of women reinforces the necessity of reform for such aged, dangerous rights of passage. As the culture surrounding such ideas shifts, men must remain vocal in their support of such shifts. In societies where patriarchy prevails, men acknowledging the invalidity and danger of such practices further emphasize the need for abolition. Among the Maasai, for example, women who were “uncut” would not be married, and their children would be seen as illegitimate within the community. Men, now showing their support for the abandonment of the practice, implicitly (and hopefully, explicitly) address the legitimacy and acceptance of “uncut” women. Of course, this will help future generations. Yet, we must also consider those individuals who have been shunned or displaced in the past because of their unwillingness to undergo the cutting. I am interested in your thoughts on this: Do you believe that we will see these communities welcoming previously shunned women back into their fold?



Batha, E. (2018, February 6). Female Genital Mutilation is a Man’s Issue Too: Kenyan Maasai Activist. Retrieved from Reuters:

Beasley, T.M. (2014). The Station of Female Genital Mutilation in the Yorubaland Belief System. East Carolina University: Greenville, NC. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Wodon, Q., & Leye, E. (2017, February 6). Ending Female Genital Mutilation – Why Education Works. Retrieved from Global Partnership for Education:


Former circumciser in Ethiopia advocates for ending Female Circumcision

Asiya Hamed is a woman who was a traditional birth attendant and female circumciser in her community, the Afambo District in Ethiopia. She now advocates for the ending of Female Circumcision/Female Genital Mutilation (FC/FGM).

After training through the Afar Pastoralist Development Association 2 years ago, she has become active in ending FC. She says that she thought she was “helping” women and girls and now realizes how it can cause harm to them (shock, hemorrhaging, difficulty during birth).

It should be noted that in this community, FC is traditionally done on girls within 7 days of being born; the article does not specify which “type” is being performed.

FGM banned in Nigeria

This is a short, online article celebrating the banning of female circumcision, also often referred to as female genital mutilation.

The bill, The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015, was signed by Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan and passed by the Nigerian senate May of this year.

This article points out the negative effects of the practice, according to WHO such as “hemorrhage (bleeding), bacterial infection, open sores, and long-term consequences that include infertility, childbirth complications and recurring bladder infections.”

This is good news as the practice of FC is becoming less acceptable among the nations (predominantly Africa, but also in some Middle Eastern regions) where it is practiced; however, this does not indicate all people will automatically cease the practice. Like we discussed in class, some will find other ways to circumvent the law; changing deeply held cultural values, even when they are damaging to people is not a simple task.

History Has Been Made! Female Genital Mutilation Banned In Nigeria!

Working towards ending FGM

February 6 of each year is “The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.” This article highlights efforts of the UN in educating communities about the myths and negative outcomes of this procedure still common in several African and Middle Easter countries in both Muslim and Christian communities.

FGM has many serious short – and long-term health consequences for girls and women. This year’s theme was “ending the ‘medicalization’ of the procedure.” FGM, even when conducted by a medical workers, is harmful to girls and women; however, as these workers become better educated about the negative consequences of FGM, some are beginning to refuse conducting the procedure.

A Call to End Female Genital Mutilation in Somalia

Carolina Fonseca

Somalia is a small country in East Africa where female genital mutilation is widespread and consists of the most severe form of female circumcision. This violent act of removing the clitoris, or parts of it, has grown to be a public health issue because the practice has severe physical and mental health consequences for women. The custom has an ancient origin but there are many different reasons and rationales for its practice. These range from religion, to a rite of passage for womanhood, to the preservation of female chastity and purity. Given its complexity, there are no easy solutions for ending the practice. However, raising awareness outside of Somalia and urging all women to join together to effect change, is an important first step closer to helping the girls of Somalia.

Female genital mutilation exists in three forms of cutting. The first is known as Type 1 in which the the precipice, surrounding the clitoris is removed. Type 2 involves removal of the clitoris as well as parts of labia minora. Type 3 is known as Pharaonic circumcision, the most severe form, in which all exterior parts are removed and then closed by rejoining the cut edges of the labia. The practice of Pharaonic circumcision or infibulations is the most widespread practice in Somalia, and it has severe physical and psychological effects on the girls who undergo the procedure.

Some of the physical short term effects are pain, severe hemorrhage from clitoral artery, shock due to hemorrhage, and urinary retention (Ford).  Long-term effects include the development of inclusion cysts, dysmenorrhea (painful cramps during menstruation), infertility, and painful intercourse. Furthermore, the vaginal areas of women with infibulations have to be re-opened for the first experience of sexual intercourse and for each birth. Afterward, they have to be restitched, leading to the formation of painful scar tissues as well as to difficulties with urination and menstruation.

The harmful physical effects are obvious but there are also negative psychological effects that these girls in Somalia face because of genital mutilation. Many may experience posttraumatic stress disorder or anxiety along with nightmares to haunt them for the rest of their lives.  These girls are victims to a culture that labels women inferior and unworthy if not physically mutilated. Feelings of insecurity, helplessness, loneliness, and fear are just a few that girls will go through throughout their lifetime after being a victim to female genital mutilation.

Girls in Somalia may not accept that their worth is solely in their reproductive system, yet, they have no voice in their own country. Outsiders can help but first they must raise awareness, which can cause issues among the community itself for fear of devaluation in their customs. My Voice is a feminist organization at East Carolina University that focuses on equal rights for all women. They raise awareness on campus and reach out to the community with a goal to raise money for particular issues affecting women and minorities.  By joining the club and speaking of the issues facing Somalia, the group can create awareness on campus and get members to fundraise money for the cause as well as getting more students involved.

Waris Dirie is a supermodel in the U.S. but is from Somalia. She has created a video to bring awareness to the horrors of Female Genital Mutilation. In her video, she addresses her personal experience with genital mutilation and explains how it changed her life forever. Dirie was a victim to this cruel act and she advocates stopping Female Genital Mutilation worldwide with her foundation called Desert Flower. By showing this video, we can create awareness and then the next step we need to take is to take action.

An active role we can play as ECU students after watching the film is to raise money for the Desert Flower foundation through My Voice organization. By raising money, we can help these girls in Somalia so that they can live a life free of fear from genital mutilation. ECU students, like many, say they are too busy to help because of homework, exams, and work. My response to these students: there will always be work and things one must do, but if we do not help give a voice to these girls, we have already failed as human beings. We need to push our negative thoughts to the side and fight for equality for these girls so that they may one day have a positive future like Waris Dirie.