Wluml dossier 3 June/July 1988 Sexual Mutilations


Reasons for the continuation of the practice



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Reasons for the continuation of the practice
In the Sudan numerous reasons are given for the performance and continuation of the practice of female circumcision. First, the operation of female circumcision appears to have been performed with a view to attenuate sexual desire. According to this popular

belief, lessening sexual appetite prevents women from indulging in pre-marital sex and from losing their virginity. Loss of virginity and pre-marital sex are deplored and regarded as improper or even immoral in Sudanese Society. However, it has been repeatedly argued that female circumcision even in its extreme form of infibulation (fastening or stitching together the edges of the labia majora) cannot serve to secure women's virginity or to ensure their chastity. This is because it is possible for a female to engage in pre-marital sex and lose her virginity, but through a simple surgical operation get recircumcised shortly before marriage. All this implies that in the light of medical knowledge the view that infibulation protects virginity and ensures continence is certainly invalid.


Secondly, in Sudan female circumcision is performed because of a common belief that a circumcised woman is "clean" and un-circumcised woman is "unclean". Again, in the light of current medical and health knowledge this reason or rather assertion has no substantial support.
Thirdly, a reason for circumcision most frequently given is that men will not marry a girl unless she is infibulated. The argument for this view is that men derive more sexual gratification from a tightly circumcised woman with a narrow orifice rather than from an un-circumcised one. Incidentally, it is this kind of reasoning which explains why many Sudanese women get involved in the vicious series of de-circumcision and re-circumcision after each successive childbirth. But as mentioned earlier, the various forms of circumcision can only add to women's agony and misery and contribute to men's lack of sexual satisfaction and impotence.
Fourthly, in the Sudan the operation of female circumcision has quite often been performed in the pretext that it is endorsed by the Islamic religion. However, this popular belief has still a strong hold. It has been repeatedly refuted by religious leaders. As Sheikh Hassan Ahmed Abu Sabib has indicated there is no evidence of the Islamic religion favouring female circumcision. The Sheikh also pointed out that Muslim countries associating the practice with religion should revise their stand and that female circumcision should not be practised by any Muslim on the basis of Islam.
Fifthly, in the Sudan, traditionally the operation of female circumcision used to be performed on girls who were approaching puberty. Consequently, female circumcision could be interpreted as an initiation ceremony which functions through certain rites to reinforce and give meaning to the process of psychosocial development from puberty to adulthood. But, now as the age at which the operation is carried out on Sudanese girls varies from one week to about 10 years, the practice of female circumcision may simply create a sense of awareness in the child regarding her future sexual role, but it can hardly prepare her to enact that role. Indeed, with much of its ceremonial and ritual acts being minimized female circumcision can no longer influence the process of socialization or maturation.
Lastly, many Sudanese families continue to perform the operation of female circumcision on their girls as a tradition or custom dictated by and in line with group norms, values and identity.



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