Wluml dossier 3 June/July 1988 Sexual Mutilations

Nature and extent of female circumcision practice in Sudan

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Nature and extent of female circumcision practice in Sudan
For a long time female circumcision has been practised in the Sudan despite the harmful physical, psychological and social effects. Among the different groups in the country it is generally associated with much ceremonial and ritual activities. Moreover, female circumcision is characteristically a women's affair and as a deeply rooted custom it is embedded in a complex set of beliefs and values. On the other hand, the operation of female circumcision is often carried out by non-skilled practitioners under very adverse hygienic conditions. For example, the instrument commonly used is a razor blade and in most instances little or no attempt is made at sterilizing it.
Female circumcision in the Sudan is reported to be performed at ages after 6, between 5 and 8 years, or between 4 and 8 years. According to Asma El Dareer's survey 81.4 per cent of the women interviewed were circumcised by the time they were 9 years, with

63.3 per cent having been circumcised between 5 to 9 years of age. The Sudan Fertility Survey and Asma El Dareer's study provide a broad picture of the prevalence and distribution of female circumcision in the Sudan. These two nationwide surveys indicate that the practice is quite prevalent in the country. Thus, according to the Sudan Fertility Survey, 95.9 per cent of the respondents (ever married females) have been circumcised. In addition, these two surveys provide a useful indication of the incidence of each of the major forms of circumcision currently.

Baggara Arabs continued to practice Sunna circumcision for quite a long time before turning to more drastic forms of infibulation whereas many of the Muslim tribes of Darfur (extreme West) do not perform circumcision on their females. A milder form of

circumcision is common throughout the groups inhabiting Northern and Central Sudan as well as among the Kababish Arabs of Western Sudan. In Southern Sudan female circumcision or any form is not in practice except perhaps where the local peoples come into contact with some Northern groups. In a vast country like the Sudan, these regional and ethno-cultural differences in the practice of female circumcision are scarcely surprising though further research is needed to substantiate them.

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