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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Female Circumcision I

I didn’t realize circumcision of girls is not a widely known phenomenon until Erica Lubavitch commented “Wow La Bona, you've got a great sense of humor! The only one I never heard before was about Jews and Muslims circumcising GIRLs. But its a great joke nonetheless. Where'd you hear it?

I therefore decided to put up this up to offer some insight into the dark world of Female Circumcision aka Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC).

Circumcision is for Girls too ...

The Egyptians circumcised their boys and girls as do the Jews. The Virgin Mary was likewise said to have been circumcised (Briffault 3/324).

Islamic tradition also says it was practised by Sarah on Hagar and that afterwards both Sarah and Abraham circumcised themselves by order of Allah .

Both male circumcision and before it female circumcision have been an ancient custom among Semitic peoples from very early times (Briffault 3/323), however Jewish circumcision did not assume its present form until as late as the Maccabees (165 BC). More

Other than Muslims and Jews, circumcision is also performed by Coptic Christians, Protestants, and Catholics (the preceding three are not known to me prior to my earlier Googling) and members of various indigenous groups.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
(NB: Original diagram posted here which depict female anatomy has been taken down as it is commented as too crude for the faithful. Apologies for any offence caused)

FGM typically involves the removal of a girl's entire clitoris (an excision that virtually eliminates the possibility of orgasm). In addition, clitoridectomy is often accompanied by the removal of the girl's labia and the sewing together of remaining raw surfaces, leaving only a small opening for the outflow of urine and menstrual blood, a process known as infibulation. Infibulation itself can have life-long deleterious consequences, including urinary distress, pain during intercourse, and dangerous complications during labor and the delivery of children.

In a rite of passage, an elder removes girls between ages 4 and 8 of their genitalia, usually without anesthesia. The procedure leaves the girls permanently scarred, unable to ever have normal sex lives. Long-term complications include sexual frigidity, genital malformation, delayed menarche, chronic pelvic complications, recurrent urinary retention and infection, and an entire range of obstetric complications whereas the fetus is exposed to a range of infectious diseases as well as facing the risk of having his or her head crushed in the damaged birth canal. In such cases the infibulated mother must undergo another operation whereby she is "opened" further to insure the safe birthing of her child.

Amnesty International estimates that 135 million girls have undergone various forms of genital mutilation, which ranges from a clitoridectomy to stitching the entire vaginal area closed except for a small opening for urination.

The Justifications (or the lack of it ...)

In various cultures there are many "justifications" for these practices. A girl who is not circumcised is considered "unclean" by local villagers and therefore unmarriageable. A girl who does not have her clitoris removed is considered a great danger and ultimately fatal to a man if her clitoris touches his penis. (wow, this is a real terror!)

One of the most common explanations of FGC is local custom. Women are often heard saying that they are unwilling to change these customs since they have always done it this way and are not about to change. Oftentimes the practitioners are kept ignorant of the real implications of FGC, and the extreme health risks that it represents.

Family honor, cleanliness, protection against spells, insurance of virginity and faithfulness to the husband, or simply terrorizing women out of sex are sometimes used as excuses for the practice of FGC.

Some people believe that FGC is a barbaric practice done to girls and women in some remote villages in foreign countries of the world. However, up until a few decades ago, it was still believed that the clitoris is a very dangerous part of the female anatomy. Who can forget S. Freud who stated in one of his books entitled Sexuality and the Psychology of Love that the "elimination of clitoral sexuality is a necessary precondition for the development of femininity."

Next: Female Circumcision II ... Origin, God & Excuse

  • Origins of Circumcision
  • Is it really commanded by God?
  • Can we do away with it and still stand tall, religiously speaking?

27 Comments:

Blogger erica Lubavitch said...

Yo La Bona, the only reputable reference you got for religious Jewish women is me. And wouldn't you just love to come around to our neighborhood and check out our intact clits.

Have you ever considered a career with The Onion?

1:58 AM  
Blogger La Bona said...

erica Lubavitch

Trust your body is intact for most of the modern Jews do not practice this 'inhuman' tradition any longer. However, please note that the 'abrogation' of female circumcision is by no mean voluntary, it is done away with by force as female circumcision has been outlawed in most civilised places but you'd be surpirse, it is still practiced (illegally).

Recently, a family physician was charged for 'helping' his faihful clients to circumcise about 50 girls, and that took place in LONDON!

What do you say about circumcision for boys? Is there any substance in this particular cultural and religious tradition?

9:27 AM  
Blogger anonymous said...

Who is this @sshole briffault. Jewish law and tradition is only to circumsize males. That's the way it's been for thousands of years and that's what it says in the bible. An orthodox jew

10:26 AM  
Blogger Chris P. said...

Anon,

You are quite correct. La Bona as I said before you are fascinatingly
strange,

12:17 PM  
Blogger La Bona said...

Chris,
How so? Is it because the issues I talked about are controversial, sensitive or simply not too friendly to the existing religions?
So what do you say about 'circumcision is also performed by Coptic Christians, Protestants and Catholics' from the Christian point of view?

12:51 PM  
Blogger Chris P. said...

Male circumsision I have no problem with as God actually commanded it. Where did the Jews and/or any Christians practice female circumsion?
As for my comment on strangeness it has nothing to do with the subject matter so much as the approach. For example is the diagram necessary? If it is, it could have been done in perhaps a bit less crude way? Most adults, man or woman with any intelligence, would have knowledge of female anatomy. I wasn't going to make an issue of it, but since you asked. The only purpose that I see in your style and approach is to shock.

3:05 PM  
Blogger La Bona said...

Chris,

Thanks for the enlightenment ….

“Is the diagram necessary? If it is, it could have been done in perhaps a bit less crude way? Most adults, man or woman with any intelligence, would have knowledge of female anatomy. I wasn't going to make an issue of it, but since you asked. The only purpose that I see in your style and approach is to shock”

No, I didn’t mean to shock and as matter of fact, I was just trying to illustrate which part of the girl body is being mutilated in the circumcision. I tried not to be offensive by choosing one of the least revealing ones (some of the illustrations I have found are honestly speaking, good enough for porn sites.)) and guess even this scientific one (from Amnesty International, I think) is too much for the folks.

OK. I shall take it down immediately in accordance to my motto, ‘Consensus Driven’. For those who wanted the reference diagram, please email me in private.

"Male circumsision I have no problem with as God actually commanded it"

Well, there is differing views to this ones, which I'd put one up in ‘Circumcision II’ ... Stay tuned.

"Where did the Jews and/or any Christians practice female circumsion?"

I have provided some leads above and if you bother to Google a bit, you'd find many materials suggesting Female Circumcision is part of the Semites' traditions, and as such Jews and the pioneer Christians (perhaps even up to now ... Coptic Christians?). I don't know for sure … but look at it this way, the Muslims do it (Female Circumcision) for sure and I was told by a Rabbi before that Mohammed gained his religious knowledge from the Jews in Medina ie.Islam has its root in Judaism, which means it must be succinct to say Circumcision (Female included) is passed down from the Jews … just like the Kosher practice.

So how then is Female Circumcision not a Jew/Semite thing? BTW, I read somewhere that circumcision is something invented by the Egyptian, rather than the Jews …

Hope this help.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Maryellen said...

it doesn't matter who invented it
it matters who commanded it and why. but even in the old testament, God said circumcision of the heart is more important that circumcision of the body.

6:00 PM  
Blogger La Bona said...

Right on, Maryellen

I concur with you that "circumcision of the heart is more important that circumcision of the body" ... and I reckoned this should be the way we children of God interpret His Words.

"it matters who commanded it and why"

Do you know why? All I have heard so far is only 'Covenant with God' ...

8:33 PM  
Blogger Christa said...

I believe female circumcision to be a vulgar and disgusting act being committed on young girls and women. I had a student in my public speaking class do a speech on it once (he did not tell me what his speech topic was beforehand, as requested). Let's just say it involved a video and I was forced to make him stop the speech mid-way through. Both men and women in the audience were disgusted and outraged that this man would think it was appropriate to show a video of this procedure being done. I had to do a lot of crisis response afterwards and it was not enjoyable. I am not saying this student couldn't have informed the audience of the practice being done, but the visual aid was totally irresponsible and showed that he did not analyze his audience ahead of time.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:16 AM  
Blogger Leah said...

reposting and hoping it comes out right this time!...blogger told me html won't work here.

Thanks for visiting my theology (one of my many) blog and requesting a comment. As woman, human and theologian I consider female circumcision repugnant. Hope that helps!

Peace be with you, Leah

12:21 AM  
Blogger popra said...

Circumcision in general is a dangerous thing, and my oppinion is that it should be the persons choice if he wants to get one or not, when they are the proper age, and it should definetly not be inforced on children by religious considerations. As for female circumcision as you describe it sounds more like a grose form of mutilation. And in families that do practice circumcision on their childred, it should be done by specialists not by preists.
Caring Mom

4:49 AM  
Blogger -[Uh-miR]- said...

Again, I am of the position that if it jeopardizes your health, body, sexual response or other people, it should not be done.

The problem with religion is that half the practices were adopted based on cultural practice (so called adopting the good and correcting the bad). Hence it becomes very difficult to distinguish God's words from Tom, Dick and Harry words. Another problem is that justifications are made to reason religious practices, instead of religious practices being born out of sound reasoning and thinking..

Female circumcision is widely practiced in Islam, but I have several muslim women friends who've parents have not sent them for circumcision, for fear of lack of sexual pleasure. It is not talked about/debated widely (unlike the hijab practice - cultural again), so I do not have much info on it, but I doubt it involves the severing of the clitoris. All said, I dont see a need for female circumcision..

7:23 AM  
Blogger becky said...

You asked for my thoughts, and I can give them to you in one verse:
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6).

The history of this so-called "female circumcision" is quite honestly a disgrace to religion. I see absolutely no place where it is even tangentially commanded by the Bible--under old covenant or new (the phrase MALE CHILD is always used or established in previous context). I personally believe that such things mourn the heart of God.

These are my honest thoughts. Don't fall into the trap of "religions do it, it must be divine." Religion-- even much of modern day Christianity-- has lost sight of the Word of God. If you justify your belief with religious authority alone, you're asking for trouble. Until you can justify something like this according to Scripture (as a whole, I might add), it cannot and will not do anything beyond grieving my heart as it does God's.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Abah Mui'zz said...

I think the best way before commenting is to go and investigate. Not just by using your own human logic in judging the issue. Did someone here bother to post any related research or finding about female circumcision? Investigate on the reason behind female circumcision. Not everything happens in this world can be justified by our own human logic. God gives us brain in order for us to see, to think...not just simply to use it to come up with judgement.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Abah Mui'zz said...

Do refer to this article at http://www.minaret.org/fgm-pamphlet.htm which talks about female circ.

In a Muslim country like Malaysia, and as far as I am concern, this issue of female circ. is not an issue at all.

9:05 PM  
Blogger La Bona said...

Abah Mui'zz,

Thanks for the link but I am afraid I am seeing even more nonsense, please correct me ...

1. What do you mean by 'ina Muslim country like Malaysia, this issue of female circ. is not an issue at all.'
Do you mean Muslim girls in Malaysia never get circumcised at all? If so, you are talking crap ...

2. It appears circumcision is even mentioned in the Quran, so why do Muslims do it? Honestly, who taught you guys how to circumcise ... Jews?

3. What do you mean by 'removal of
a minuscule segment of skin from the female prepuce, provided no harm is done' or 'Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband'? What exactly did you cut or remove? Care to illustrate?

4. The links also mentioned many 'benefits' to circumcise a girl ... What are those benefits?

5. What do say about boy circumcision? What are those benefits? And what are the benefits to circumcise boys?

6. Lastly, who taught the Muslims in Africa to circumcise?

7. Do you actually believe circumcision is a good covenant with God? How and why?

8. Apprciate any other info you may provide.

12:33 AM  
Blogger Abah Mui'zz said...

First, I am not a muslim scholar. My knowledge is limited, and I am still learning.

Second, the link I gave is an article which is not written by me.But I think the explanation is a good source of info.

Third, majority of women in Malaysia do circumsized, and yet, it was not an issue.We have many other important tasks to think of.

I think in life, no matter what is your religion and faith, we have some sort of priority of doing things. And as a muslim like me, I'd rather go and learn, and do what is needed to be done as a Muslim, not to waste my time looking for things which is not really important like this female circumcision issue. You probably have your own reason when raising this kind of issue, but I am really sorry, my Islamic knowledge is not enough to explain it to you, from a real persepctive of Islam.

5:25 AM  
Blogger La Bona said...

Circumcision affects one physically and mentally ... not important?
OK, let's say circumcision is not improtant, then why bother to do it?

9:25 AM  
Blogger Tikvah Batyah said...

I've never heard of a female being circumsized - this is sad. To my knowledge the Jewish faith ONLY circumsizes boys as G-d commanded. To cause such irreparable damage would be against the wishes of our Creator I believe. Thank-you for posting on my site. Bests, Tikvah Batyah

11:24 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

La Bona -

Not sure why my opinion is of interest to you, but thanks for asking me (on my blog www.writeslikeshetalks.blogspot.com) to comment. I'll stick to the precise questions that you asked:

1. You asked: Do you think Female Circumcision which involve the removal of the entire clitoris and render a girl unable to experience orgasm acceptable?

No, I do not think this practice is acceptable.

I've tried to catch up with what's going on re: this topic on your blog and where you are coming from (re: why post this kind of information) and although I can't discern that yet, I will say that as a Jew who's been exposed to Jews in a variety of settings and who observe on all ends of the extremes and in between, I've never heard of anyone suggesting or supporting or performing or considering the performing of female circumsion.

All new to me.

2. You wrote: It is said God actually never commanded such a ‘covenant’ …

Appreciate any comment you may have

Well - you have some reasonable commentary on this already. Brit mila is the standard for boys. A lot of Jews aren't interested in doing it to their sons for a variety of reasons - personal, political, religious, sexual.

It's a personal choice as far as I'm concerned. My sons are circumsized. If I weren't Jewish, they'd probably still be circumsized. That's just me and my choice. I'm not going to judge anyone on this issue. It's too personal, in my opinion.

Hope that helps and thanks again for asking my opinion.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Turbatio said...

I think the practice of female circumcision is utterly disgusting. There is no medical benefit, and it robs women of any chance of sexual fulfilment. The mentality behind it seems to be just like that involved in branding cattle. To think it is performed on human beings repels me.

There is no history nor precedent of it in Judaism where, as been noted by others above, only males are expected to undergo the surgery as a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. As for it being a semitic tradition, there are some semitic peoples who have historically practiced it, others who have not. My own view is that, in the time of the patriarchs, circumcision of males was not as widespread as you might like to think, hence the Biblical references to non-Israelites as 'the uncircumcised'. Also, in one passage of Scripture, soldiers were instructed to collect the penises of the enemy after a battle in order to assess the slaughter: clearly, any uncircumcised male genitals showed how many non-Israelites had been killed.

As for Copts, Catholics and Protestants, circumcision would not be performed with any religious significance but probably for cultural or health reasons. Americans, for example, are far more commonly circumcised as children than are Europeans; this is nothing to do with what they believe; purely, I should think, a reflection of usual medical practice or social opinion.

2:32 PM  
Blogger poopernut said...

Female circumcision…
One thing we must really, really keep in mind is that no matter what we think about it personally (and personally I thank God everyday for my sweet clitoris and feel it is a great blessing), other cultures often have their different ways of creating meaning and value and connection with God and with each other. This is not just a mainstream religion issue (if it truly is at all). In my education, this is something that I thought happened more often NOW in indigenous cultures, as part of ceremonies for women (and usually by women), a coming of age of sorts. And sometimes, an empowering act. This is something I found in researching a bit about female circumcision in Sierra Leone, among some of the indigenous groups there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_circumcision

Many have also argued that for as long as this practice has gone on, particularly in Africa, it has only been more recently- last 50 years or so- that is became dangerous- largely due in part to the bankrupting of Africa at the hands of westerners and industrialized Europeans. At this point, indigenous knowledge and ways and medicines had been pretty much destroyed in many ways, yet indigenous folks were still wanting to practice some their age old customs, but no longer had the safe means to do it. So. There’s that.
I am glad awareness is spreading about this, but look with your other eyes-

Speaking as an American, “we” think it is okay to circumcise virtually every male, tell our women they are sluts if they engage in sex freely, pay our women less than men in the same jobs, fire women for giving birth, and treat women like sex objects on every street corner where a billboard can fit. And we still remain a society plagued with violence against women. What high horse of ultimate knowledge are we sitting on that we have the means to say this is wrong? Yes, putting people’s health at risk is not good, and perhaps we do have our finger on something when we say that health is an unalienable human right. But this practice could be done safely and cleanly. Yes, it bugs me too that women are in some cases I am sure, virtually forced into losing their clitorises because of social conditioning and pressure- it breaks my heart. But is it our responsibility to walk into a totally foreign culture and ideology and declare right from wrong? We have not figured that out, even for ourselves.

Peace-

11:25 AM  
Blogger James Crossley said...

I think poopernut has said the kind of things I would go along with. If there is a perceived problem within a culture about female circumcision then the opposition will probably have to come from within and as I'm aware this is taking place in certain contexts. Imposing rights of wrongs from 'outside' often makes matters worse.

One of my problems is that when there is some focus on these issues there tends to be implied the view that Christiainity, Western civilisation (whatever that's supposed to mean) is somehow inherently better than the given hated culture or religion of the time. Islam has been given this role by many Christians. It is of course quite inaccurate to do this but it happens accompanied by a focussing on anything that seems outrageous to us without looking at what parts of Western culture of Christianity or whatever may seem outrageous to outsiders.

As for circumcision in Judaism, it is a male thing. Women, at least according to conventional Jewish law, go through an immersion.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Abah Mui'zz said...

Just to add some comments, and this is based on malaysian muslim women.

Majority of malaysian muslim women was circumcised. And yet, they still live as other women in another country in this world, still be able to get married, have sex, have kids, go to work, do whatever they want to do, without any comments/grumblings.

And I don't understand why la bona do really says "Circumcision affects one physically and mentally". Because if it really affects, many of our women needs medical treatment, which in reality, it does not happen in Malaysia. I am not sure if that happens in western countries.

Is there any research done on the effect of circumsion for female?

About the other question by la bona
"OK, let's say circumcision is not improtant, then why bother to do it?",

is it fair if I ask another question "Body piercing is also not important in life, then why many young westerners bother to do it?"?

In Islam, female circumcision is never ever made compulsary. If you want to do it, fine, and if not, it is fine too. So, why do we need to bother ourself with this issue?

Discussing about fighting AIDS, fighting poverty, finding a best technique to educate our young generation, how to become a good husband/wife, are far more beneficial than discussing this topic.

12:05 AM  
Blogger La Bona said...

Abah Mui'zz,

I have answered you in a new entry http://divinetalk.blogspot.com/2005/08/death-to-female-circumcision.html

10:30 AM  

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WARNING: Blind obsession with prophecy can be perilous or even fatal, reader discretion is advised! Submitted to God as His worldly Activist on a non-exclusive basis since June 15, 2005 1:00 am ET. “La Bona” is a professional name inspired by God; it means "The Righteous", “The Virtuous” or simply “The Good” in Esperanto (a neutral international language). DivineTalk® is an Open Commentary Forum dedicated to God for His Children to engage in dialogue, discourse and debate on laws, standards and values on morality, lifestyle, ethics, business and just about anything else related to their life. God enlightened to have His Words improvised and updated with the prevailing circumstances so that the divine guidance, dogma and policy will evolve with time and stay relevant to His Children in the very era they live in as the way forward. La Bona is a Truth Seeker, Myth Buster, Freedom Fighter, Cyber Activist, Liberal Animal, Good Samaritan, Messiah Wannabe and in order to serve His Children of diverse backgrounds, La Bona is motivated and aim to eventually multitask as Divine Representative, Contemporary Prophet, Celestial Executive, Deity Clairvoyant, Holy Spiritualist ...

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