Female genital mutilation: What can be done?

Lancet. 2000 Feb;356:S57

Female genital mutilation: What can be done?

Ndubuisi Eke


Female genital mutilation, euphemistically and erroneously referred to as “female circumcision”, is practised worldwide and the victims exceed 135 million. Although attempts have been made to classify the extent of this barbaric practice, it has been suggested that anatomically, the perpetrators “know not what they do”. But they should not be forgiven. The identified types correlate with the extent of mutilation in increasing order of severiw from a subtotal clitoridectomy, through infibulation, to introcision in which the perineum is split with the finger or other implements.

The earliest record of female genital mutilation, as a sort of substitute for human sacrifice, was found in a Greek papyrus of 163 BC. In the past, it was also advocated as medical treatment in the UK and USA for various “female weaknesses”, such as hysteria, melancholy, epilepsy, lesbianism, excessive masturbation, achievement of orgasm, and control of sexual drive. We may never know whether the original champions were the “auld enemy” male chauvinists or the ancestors of contemporary cultist daughters of Jezebel. Ensuring perpetual virginity among the Scoptsi sect of Russia, securing economic and social future in Sudan, and reducing female sexual activity in tribal Africa and Asia are some of the spurious reasons for maintaining the ritual. This supports the view that, like male circumcision, female genital mutilation evolved spontaneously in Africa, Europe, Australia, and America…

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