Fem. Infibulation: Women mutilated
130/473 08 Apr 90 19:40:00
From: Ted Powell
To: Peh Lee
Subj: Re: infibulation
> Kirsten, while you are taking action against the
> multilation of women's sexual organ, you should also
> look at the horror circumsision brought to the male.
If any of the boards you call archives the MENSA echo, check a couple of months
back, where she was doing just that -- at length.
There's really no comparison, though. There have, of course, been extreme
cases of botched circumcisions, such as the physician who while trying to
circumcise a baby boy with an electrical procedure accidentally used too high a
current and burned off the entire penis (Biological Psychology; James W.
Kalat; Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont CA; ISBN 0-534-08466-4; Lib. Cong.
cat QP360.K33 1987; page 314). But the majority of cases turn out at least
tolerably for the subject, which is not so in the case of female genital
The following is from "Female circumcision, excision, and infibulation: facts
and proposals for change (Revised 1983 edition)" (also in French, Arabic, and
Italian) Report No 47 of the Minority Rights Group, 29 Craven Street, London
WC2. The identifying number for this series of reports is ISSN:0305-6252.
Some of the other titles in this series are: #27 Arab Women, #45 Women in
Asia, #57 Latin American Women, #21 Canada's Indians, #60 The Inuit (Eskimo) of
Canada, #3 Japan's minorities: Burakumin, Koreans, Ainu and Okinawans, #20
Selective genocide in Burundi, #26 The Untouchables of India, #33 Nomads of the
Sahel, #37 The Hungarians of Rumania, #59 Teaching about prejudice.
[footnotes are included inline, in square brackets]
From the Introduction:
Sexuality remains for many of us an obscure area, mined with cultural taboos,
loaded with anxiety and fear. This is one of the reasons why the subject of
genital mutilations provokes violent emotive reactions, both from those in the
West who are shocked and indignant, and from those in Africa and the Middle
East who are wounded when these facts are mentioned, and prefer to minimise the
quantitative importance of the practice. The total number of women affected is
in any case unknown, but without any doubt involves several tens of millions of
women. Medically unnecessary, painful, and extremely dangerous operations are
being carried out every day, at the present time.
From Part I, The facts about female genital mutilation:
Types of mutilations:
iii) Infibulation, the cutting of the clitoris, labia minora and at least the
anterior two-thirds and often the whole of the medial part of the labia majora.
The two sides of the vulva are then pinned together by silk or catgut sutures,
or with thorns, thus obliterating the vaginal introitus except for a very small
opening, preserved by the insertion of a tiny piece of wood or a reed for the
passage of urine or menstrual blood. These operations are done with special
knives (in Mali, a saw-toothed knife), with razor blades (in Sudan, a special
razor known as Moos el Shurfa), or with pieces of glass. The girl's legs are
then bound together from hip to ankle and she is kept immobile for up to forty
days to permit the formation of scar tissue.
Description of an infibulation
[actual description omitted, partly for brevity and partly because I find it
horrible] This description, by M.A.S. Mustafa, is recounted in the thesis of
Dr. Alan David working in his home territory of Djibouti [Thesis entitled
`Infibulation en Republique de Djibouti', Thesis No:131 Universite de Bordeaux,
publ in 1978 par l'Amicale des Etudiants en Medecine de Bordeaux], and is
similar to the description by anthropologist Annie de Villeneuve [`Etude sur
une Coutume Somalie, Les Femmes Cousues', Journal de la Societe des
Africainistes 1937, 7.], and by Jacques Lantier in La Cite Magique [Editions
Fayard 1972, translation by the writer]. Lantier goes on to describe the
wedding night in Somalia when the husband, having beaten his wife with a
leather whip, uses a dagger to open her:
`According to tradition, the husband should have prolonged and repeated
intercourse with her during eight days. This "work" is in order to "make" an
opening by preventing the scar from closing again. During these eight days, the
woman remains lying down and moves as little as possible in order to keep the
wound open. The morning after the wedding night, the husband puts his bloody
dagger on his shoulder and makes the rounds in order to obtain general
Health risks and complications depend upon the gravity of the mutilation,
hygenic conditions, the skill and eyesight of the operator, and the struggles
of the child. Whether immediate or long-term, they are grave. [The consequences
of sexual mutilations on the health of women have been studied by Dr. Ahmed
Abu-el-Futuh Shandall, Lecturer, Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Facl. of
Medicine, University of Khartoum, in a paper entitled, `Circumcision and
Infibulation of Females' published in the Sudanese Medical Journal 1967 Vol 5
No.4; and by Dr. J.A. Verzin, in an article entitled `The Sequelae of Female
Circumcision', published in Tropical Doctor, October 1975. A bibliography on
the subject has been prepared by Dr. R. Cook for the World Health
Immediate complications: Haemorrhage from section of the internal pudental
artery or of the dorsal artery of the clitoris; post-operative shock (death can
only be prevented if blood transfusion and emergency resuscitation are
possible). Bad eyesight of the operator or the resistance of the child causes
cuts in other organs: the urethra, the bladder (resulting in urine retention
and bladder infection), the anal sphincter, vaginal walls or Bartholin glands.
As the instruments used have rarely been sterilized, tetanus (frequently
fatal), and septicaemia often result.
It is impossible to estimate the number of deaths, since the nature of the
operation requires that unsuccessful attempts be concealed from strangers and
health authorities, and a very small proportion of cases of immediate
complication reach hospital. Nevertheless, hospital staff in all the areas
concerned are very familiar with last minute and often hopeless attempts to
save bleeding, terrified little girls. Operators are not held responsible by
parents if death or infection result from the operation.
Long-term complications: Chronic infections of the uterus and vagina are
frequent, the vagina having become, in the case of infibulation, a semi-sealed
organ. Sometimes a large foreign body forms in the interior of the vagina as a
result of the accumulation of mucous secretions. Keloid scar formation on the
vulval wound can become so enlarged as to obstruct walking. The growth of
implantation dermoid cysts as large as a grapefruit is not rare. Fistula
formation (due to obstructed labour -- rupture of the vagina and/or uterus)
causes incontinence in later life, so that many mutilated women are continually
dribbling urine. ...
That was only the beginning. If anybody really wants to see more, I could send
it in a private netmail message.
Have I made my point, that male circumcision (which, BTW, I'm certainly not
defending) is _minor_ by comparison?
--- ConfMail V3.31
* Origin: PSG Vancouver (1:153/4)