Female Genital Mutilation

Why is it practised?

FGM is an extremely complex, sensitive and politicized issue, difficult to understand only through normative definitions, classifications and / or geographical delimitations. It is necessary to have an anthropological look at the phenomenon to obtain an understanding of its significance that allows to approach the subject with knowledge and respect.

FGM has great symbolic significance for the communities that practice it. In Africa, it is linked to two basic values ​​of culture: the feeling of belonging to the community and the complementarity between the sexes. In some societies, the practice continues to form part of initiation ceremonies to adulthood, directly influencing the construction of women's roles and status, granting ethnic and gender identity. It transmits a feeling of pride and belonging to the group, and becomes the physical proof that guarantees the girl's femininity and the obtaining of the necessary knowledge to be able to belong to the community and to the secret world of women (Kaplan, 1998; Kaplan , et al., 2013a).

When the reasons for continuing the practice are investigated, various reasons appear:

  • "Tradition says so": in order to ensure that girls prepare for adult life and marriage, without being excluded from the community, families continue to exercise this practice as a tradition that is sometimes lived as a rite of passage organized by mothers and grandmothers.
  • “Religion says so”: FGM is practiced in Muslim, Coptic Christian and Falasha Jewish communities (in Egypt and Ethiopia, for example). Ignorance of its origins has led to its link with religion, although it is not mentions neither in the Bible nor in the Koran.
  • “It's cleaner”: Some practicing communities perceive women's external genitalia as parts of the body that are “dirty” before circumcising them.
  • “It is more beautiful”: The female external genitalia are considered to be “unsightly” parts, and in some communities, it is believed that the clitoris could reach the dimensions of the penis if it is not excised.
  • "Preserves virginity, family honor and prevents promiscuity": in some societies, female virginity is a prerequisite and indispensable for marriage on which the honor of the family depends.
  • "Increases fertility": Some communities believe that if the baby touches the mother's clitoris with the head at birth, it can cause her death (mortality in primigravidas) or can cause physical deformities or mental.