Female circumcision has long been a contested issue with highly polarised debates. Some question the morality of the act and consider it synonymous with barbarism, whilst others perceive it as an example of cultural integrity – a ritual upheld by moral values.

The act has been heavily criticised by Anglo-European feminists who assert that female circumcision is simply an expression of male chauvinism and is both physically and symbolically representative of female subjugation. They propose that it creates a barrier to sexual exploration and ultimately the expression of oneself, as it impedes women from finding their sexual orientation and discovering the orgasmic pleasures associated with sexual relations. Female circumcision limits the development and fulfilment of womanhood as it distorts it in a manner that makes it so fragmented that it becomes difficult to recover enough sexual normality.

Drawing from some of these ideas, psychoanalytical arguments are centred on the emotional trauma associated with the physicality of the ritual. They stress the mental implications, as many of the women that endure female circumcision are in fact not women but children. They claim that young girls are not emotionally mature enough to endure the pain and responsibility.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO):

• Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

• Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later can cause cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and an increased risk of newborn deaths.

• About 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.

• FGM is usually carried out on young girls at any age varying between infancy and 15.

• In Africa an estimated 92 million girls, 10 years old and above, have undergone FGM.

Source: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

(Please refer to the website for more information)

On the other side of the debate, ideas generally circulate about the pride and power associated with female circumcision, whereby it is perceived as a mark of identity and purification. A woman may perceive herself to be more powerful and sexually liberated through her chastity than a woman who has the supposed freedom to ‘exploit’ her body.

What does female circumcision mean to you? What is your position in this extensive debate? We value your thoughts and would appreciate your response to this article.

Useful read: ‘Desert Flower’

Waris Dirie

‘Desert Flower’ is a book based on the ‘rags to riches’ story of internationally known Somali supermodel Waris Dirie. The story follows the heart-stirring journey from her humble beginnings in the African desert, being circumcised, to the runways of Milan and then becoming a human rights ambassador for the U.N.  ‘Desert Flower’ was also made into a film of the same name released in 2009. Waris is played by another familiar face, supermodel and actress Liya Kebede, who was the first coloured model to represent Estee Lauder (The two are shown together below).

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