Re: African female genital infibulation

Jessica Maloney (23jess@UCLINK.BERKELEY.EDU)
Thu, 5 May 1994 09:38:15 -0800

The big point of all the reading I did on this subject years and years ago,
pertaining to women's defence of the practice, was that if infibulation or
other types of genital mutilation were not practiced on their daughters,
the entire family would be exiled from the village, from subsistence
reciprocation networks, would effectively be bannished, and could not
survive. A woman's primary concern is the survival of her family; if she
and her progeny must suffer for it, so be it.
On the other hand are women without families, who still are required to
maintain the cycle of infibulation: prostitutes in many African countries
(Kenya has had the most research on epidemiology, on infibulation and the
spread of AIDS) will be "tightened" periodically, as their clients prefer
properly infibulated women.
Also left out of this discussion is the marriage-rite of chasing a bride
through a village, holding her down and cutting open her infibulation scar
for penetration by the grooms brothers. Nasty. TRAUMATIZING even.
Perhaps my biggest shock on reading this thread is the misrepresentation
(or lack of reading) on the epidemiology of female genital mutilation: yes
it is largely a phenomenon of the Islamic world, esp. "traditional"
socieites in Islamic Africa, but it is also practiced in South Asia,
Southeast Asia to a smaller extent, there are many surgeons in London, UK,
who advertize this service, and the practice of infibulation is told to be
pretty popular right here. It is not a practice of the time and space
distant Other- it is here and now.

Note: does anyone remember when hysterectomies, clitoridectomies and our
other versions of infibulation were practiced in Europe and the U.S. for
control of wives and girls stricken by hysteria or just plain old