Midwifery Today, 2006, 80
Female Genital Mutilation: Legal, Cultural and Medical Issues
[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 80, Winter 2006, © 2006, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Cheryl K. Smith.] [2005, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 321 pages, paperback.]
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also sometimes known as female circumcision, comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons. (WHO,www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/) Female Genital Mutilation: Legal, Cultural and Medical Issues, a well-researched reference book, is important reading for individuals who are providing birth care to women from the countries in which FGM is practiced. As the world becomes more mobile and international, midwives and other birth professionals are more likely to see women who have had one of these procedures performed on them.
This book starts with discussion of the various types of FGM, rationales behind the practice and some of the psychosexual effects. It then goes on to provide information on prevalence, evolving law regarding the practice and how acceptance/rejection of FGM is changing. One of the most interesting chapters includes an interview with Maasai in Tanzania regarding FGM and highlights the strength of tradition in keeping this damaging practice alive. While painful to read in parts, the book provides a comprehensive look at a practice that has affected between 110 and 140 million women around the world.