Surprisingly, a five-year study of 300 women and 100 men in the Sudan found that “sexual desire, pleasure, and orgasm are experienced by nearly 90% of women who have had this mutilation done – in spite of their being culturally bound to hide these experiences”. However, women so mutilated often have both psychological and physical problems.
If the vaginal opening is partially closed, there is difficulty with menstrual flow and infection results. Urine retention can occur, also causing infection. HIV infection appears to be more prominent in those having had this procedure as well.
A reversal of infibulation can be performed to allow sexual intercourse and childbirth, but is still another trauma to body and mind. Stress, anxiety and aggression are often found in the victims of female circumcision. A number of books have been written by women who have undergone these horrors, detailing their agony.
When female circumcision is done under primitive conditions (such as Pieters observed in the Horn of African), there may be excessive tissue removed accompanied by severe bleeding leading to shock and death. This is in addition to infection and agonizing pain (if it is done without anesthesia). After the procedure, the girl’s labia majora are held together by thorns or stitching and her legs are often tied together so that she cannot move for 2 to 6 weeks until the 2 sides of the vulva are healed.
Amnesy International estimates that over 130 million women world wide have been affected by some form of female circumcision, with over 3 million girls at risk for underground female circumcision every year. Female circumcision has been most prevalent in Egypt, but a law banning it passed in 2007 following the death of a twelve-year-old girl during the procedure. (However there a ways around the law as I discussed in Part 1 of this series).
Both the United Nations and the World Health Organization have attempted to end female circumcision, but the fight continues. It goes on worldwide, but mostly in Africa and Asia. Still, it must be noted that even the Al Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research (the highest religious authority in Egypt) has said that there is no basis for female circumcision in core Islamic law or in any of its partial provisions, and that the procedure is harmful and should not be discontinued.
I think the only long-term answer is for adherents of female circumcision to come to an understanding that the woman is a human being, with an eternal soul, wonderful gifts and sensibilities and is created in the image of God (as is the man). She was created by God to be the man’s”help meet”, not his slave or sex toy. She has rights that are God-given and to rob her of them is wrong.
She has intrinsic worth (as does the man). If a man in a particular culture or religion refuses to marry a woman who has not undergone female circumcision, perhaps she should either marry outside that group or remain single. Perhaps her parents should value their daughter’s personhood enough to allow her those options rather than robbing her of who she really is before she is yet able to defend herself or escape.
Books, lectures and sermons have their part in this and I champion them. However, I believe that example has a great place as well. A true and lasting integration of blacks and whites seemed nearly impossible some 50 years ago (even with laws and the National Guard proping it up). It took time to see black people naturally (not just legally and forcibly) in the places once held exclusively by whites. The same was so of women in western culture (and I hope will soon be so in African and Eastern culture).
How many girls and women will be mutilated, tortured, killed, and enslaved before that occurs, we can only guess. But we must all do out part, directly (when possible), by prayer (in all cases). Giving-up the fight by saying, “That it’s awful, but that’s the way it’s always been” is not an option. I heard that sort of thing said of blacks and women when I was a kid. – I didn’t believe it! I was right!