Female Circumcision: A Sociological Perspective

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For the most part, men do not involve themselves in the practice, and its greatest supporters are women in the immunities affected It contributes to the spread of WAITED and other Stud’s because non sterile instruments are used, usually a piece of glass or a knife. It is seen in the communities as a practice which makes girls less interested in sex, more docile, therefore more attractive as a wife, although western medicine can not support that belief. It is much more painful than male circumcision.

The procedure usually involves the removal of much more tissue and then Is followed by partial or complete sewing shut of the vagina. Unlike violence perpetrated by males, it is a violence perpetrated by the communities themselves. ND there is a prohibition against mutilation or harming the body. Its practice preceded Islam, apparently, for thousands of years. In the following pages we will be using the sociological perspective and applying the scientific method to the societies that participate in Female Circumcision.

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We will elaborate on this subject through three different perspectives, the symbolic interaction perspective, the functionalist perspective and the conflict perspective. Hopefully, upon the conclusion of this paper we can reveal more about how these societies work and have the sociological perspectives give us additional insight into his social phenomena. “Symbolic Interactions is the theoretical perspective that focuses on the symbols that people use to establish meaning, develop their views of the world, and communicate with one another(Heinlein 2005. ) Female circumcision, the part or total cutting away of the external female genitalia, has been practiced for centuries in parts of Africa, ancient Egypt, eastern Mexico, and Australia. This practice was done generally as one element of a rite of passage preparing young girls for womanhood and marriage. It was often performed without anesthetic and under peptic conditions by lay practitioners with little or no knowledge of human anatomy or medicine. Female circumcision can cause death or permanent health problems as well as severe pain.

Despite these grave risks, its practitioners look on it as an integral part of their cultural and ethnic identity, and some perceive it as a religious obligation(Encyclopedia. ) The general term female circumcision includes at least three clinically distinct kinds of surgery. Clinometers which is the removal of all or part of the clitoris and the hood, or prepuce, which covers it. This is sometimes called sauna circumcision, Hough sauna circumcision might also refer to perpetual cutting alone. The name sauna relates the practice to Islamic traditions(Houses. The second type, excision, includes clinometers but also removes some or all of the labia minors (inner folds surrounding women’s genitalia); all or part of the labia major might also be cut(Houses. ) The most extreme form of circumcision, infatuation (closing of the vagina partially by stitching it, or closing it with a clasp), goes beyond excision. After removing the labia, the sides of the vulva are Joined so that scar tissue forms over the aging opening, leaving a small gap for urination and menstruation.

Infatuation is also called pharisaic circumcision, a name originating in beliefs that the practice was part of ancient Egyptian life. Infatuated women often require surgical opening to allow first intercourse and birthing; in many cases women are reinstalled after each childbirth(Houses. ) In addition to these three well-recognized types of female circumcision, a fourth is sometimes included. The mildest form (sometimes called “mild sauna”), this involves a symbolic pricking or slight nicking of the clitoris or prepuce. Worldwide, excision and infatuation are the most widely practiced types of female circumcision.

In Africa, infatuation is most common primarily in the Horn of Africa(Myers. ) Whether and how circumcision affects women’s sexuality is much debated. It is important, however, to distinguish between sexual desire, sexual activity, and sexual pleasure. Sexual desire and sexual activity may not be reduced with female genital operations. Euro-American opponents of the practices emphasize that circumcised women feel no sexual pleasure, but a number of African depending on the type of operation performed, prior sexual experience, and other actors.

Some African activists also suggest that the stress on sexual pleasure in anti- circumcision campaigns derives from a recent and primarily Western concept of sexuality(Lightproof-Klein 1989. ) In many places where female circumcision is practiced, the physical operation is but one moment in an elaborate ceremony. For example, for the Cookie people in Kenya, initiation into adulthood includes circumcision for boys and excision for girls, but the full initiation process continues for several months and involves moral instruction, family and community engagement, and the negotiation of new social relationships.

While the operations are a central initiation trial and create a permanent physical mark of adulthood, initiation cannot be reduced to circumcision or excision alone. In many other societies, initiation does not involve circumcision at all(Houses. ) The purpose and meaning of female circumcision are related to specific cultural understandings of identity, Persephone, morality, adulthood, gender, bodily aesthetics, and other important issues. In the Sudan, for instance, female circumcision is seen as enhancing a woman’s purity, cleanliness, and beauty. For the Kikuyu people of

Kenya, circumcision was the foundation of moral self-mastery for women and men alike, performed as part of initiation into adulthood(Houses. ) The age of those circumcised varies widely according through cultural understandings. In much of Mali and the Sudan, for example, girls are circumcised at six to eight years, while various communities in Kenya and Sierra Leone perform the operation in the early teens. For the Your people of Nigeria, male circumcision and female excision are not related to adulthood initiation but rather to moral concepts of shame and fertility.

They often circumcise their children at Just a few days old, much like male circumcision in the United States and Europe(Houses. ) When female circumcision was performed on American and European women, it was done at a much later age than elsewhere in the world, and for quite different reasons. In Africa, for example, the operation is usually considered part of a person’s social and moral development, and so is rarely performed after puberty. In regards to female circumcision, symbolic internationalism would argue that girls learn meanings attached to symbols through interactions with other women and girls.

As individuals learn meanings attached to symbols through interactions with society, they may develop a sense of themselves based on the social standards that are set for them. If women are circumcised, they may see themselves as pure and beautiful because these are the meanings associated with circumcision that were learned through interactions with others. Symbolic interactions states that an individual’s behavior in society is based on her perception of symbols and the meanings associated with those symbols.

In the course of interactions with other girls, the positive meanings associated with circumcisions are learned. The positive meanings associated with circumcision may include womanhood, purity, fertility, and beauty. The idea of the Looking Glass self argues that individuals develop a sense of themselves as they believe others see them. When a young girl is about to be circumcised, her mother or other women and girls in her society will tell her that she is becoming a woman, that this will help her stay pure, and she will be beautiful. Everyone in that society will see symbols when she is circumcised.

The next sociological perspective is the functionalist perspective. “Functionalism s often referred to as ‘consensus’ theory because it does not address the issue of conflict in society, rather it projects an ideal picture of harmonious social relationships(Sociology at Hewitt. “) The starting point of all Functionalism is the philosophy that all societies have certain basic needs. There are certain functional requirements which must be met if a society is to survive. Functionalists are therefore concerned with the contribution from the various parts of society towards those needs. In essence, Functionalism is concerned with the basic need and desirability for social order and stability to prevail n society(Sociology at Hewitt. “) “Functionalists believe that the basis of an orderly society is the existence of a central value system that imposes common values on all its members. Therefore, when Functionalists look at the ways in which the various parts of society contribute to bringing about social order they are mainly concerned with the ways in which these parts help to perpetuate and maintain this common value system(Sociology at Hewitt. ) “Female circumcision is deeply enmeshed in local traditions and beliefs. Interviews of 21 Bedouin women in southern Israel uncovered several reasons for rescission. The most common is social pressure to maintain tradition. The second most common is the belief that uncircumcised women are not good bakers or cooks. Many women believe that after circumcision, women are cleaner(Assail 1995. )” The justifications for female circumcision vary. Interviews of ethnic groups in Nigeria believe that if a woman’s clitoris is not removed, contact with it will kill a baby during childbirth.

Other people believe that without circumcision, the female genitalia will continue to grow. Vaginal secretions, produced by glands that are often removed as art of the surgery, are thought to be unclean and lethal to sperm(Ebony 1997. ) These examples of folklore show socially the pressure to abide tradition and to gain acceptance with the transition from girl to woman. In some Muslim countries where FIG is practiced, it is Justified by two controversial sayings of the Prophet Mohammed that seem to favor sauna circumcision. The authenticity of these sayings are unconfirmed, and some scholars have refuted them.

Even if true, they only permit the practice; they do not mandate it. The first controversial saying was a discussion recorded between Mohammed and Jim Habit (or Jim ‘Today), a woman who performed infatuation on slaves. She said that she would continue the procedure “unless it is forbidden and you order me to stop doing it. ” He replied (according to one translation): miss, it is allowed. Come closer so I can teach you: if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face and it is more pleasant for the husband. This passage states that the least invasive form of circumcision is allowed(Robinson 2005). The second controversial saying that suggests FIG is when Mohammed is recorded as speaking of the sauna circumcision to the Nana’s’ wives, saying: “Cut lightly without exaggeration, because it is more pleasant for your husbands. ” Again, 2005. ) Female circumcision is often thought to purify and protect the next generation from dangerous outside influences, to bind all youth to their peers or age set.

As part of intensive group colonization, it also firmly establishes age set relationships, generational respect and authority patterns. At marriage, the authority over the bride is transferred to her husband. The respect and economic value of the bride to her husband and his family is dependent upon her unquestioned virginity as mistreated by the intact circumcision(Houses. ) Other obvious functions include the control of female sexuality and marital chastity. Attar before marriage in many circumcising societies, brides-to-be were inspected by their prospective, circumcised, female in-laws.

In addition the brides own family often inspected the circumcision as well(Lightproof-Klein 1989. ) Another function is to insure marriage in a society in which men have been taught that only circumcised women make good wives. Yet another function of female circumcision is to limit the possible enjoyment level of sex for women. It also serves to implant fear of pain and being shamed and cast out if not a virgin girl or chaste wife. The actual day of circumcision is one of fear and pain, but also accomplishment and recognition as a full adult marriageable member of society.

Some have compared it in western terms to a combination of first communion, confirmation or bat mitzvahs and sweet sixteen occasion. The girl gets more recognition, including attention, special beautiful clothing, special food and Jewelry, after this coming of age ritual than at any other time in her life except on her marriage day(Lightproof-Klein 1989. ) It is said that the three most difficult and yet Joyous times in a women’s life are at her circumcision, marriage and on the birth of her first child. Each marks a period or transition from one stage of life to another, from the authority of one family to another.

Female circumcision thus physically marks the female as belonging to a male family whose rights over her will be violated and whose wrath will be faced if she is sexually invaded(Lightproof-Klein 1989. ) Finally, “conflict theory states when people in a position of authority try to enforce conformity, which they must do, this creates resentment and resistance. The result is a constant struggle throughout society to determine who has authority over what(Heinlein 2005. “) In the case of female circumcision, it is not the men but the mothers and older women of the society that oversee this ritual.

Many women believe that female circumcision is simply practical. The belief behind this is they want the virginity of their daughters to be protected to ensure they get husbands who respect them. Getting married and having children is a survival strategy in a society plagued by poverty, disease and illiteracy(Myers. ) Conflict theorists would argue that the socioeconomic dependence of women on men affects their attitude toward circumcision. Women are more likely to get married to wealthier men if they are circumcised.

Advocates of female circumcision charge the increasingly vocal opponents of the practice with trying to undermine African culture. European colonialism tried to abolish female circumcision in the first half of this century, but local people own traditions as a backlash. They began to associate female circumcision with their own identity and cultural traditions(Lightproof-Klein 1989. ) Female circumcision came symbolic of holding on to their own traditions, and not adapting to a new culture that tried to impose its own social norms onto another culture through colonialism.

Immigration of cultures that practice female circumcision to cultures that do not practice female circumcision has raised questions in countries such as France, Italy, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada and the US. France banned the practice when an immigrant father performed the operation on his infant daughter resulting in her death. Canada established a policy prohibiting doctors from performing male circumcisions in Ontario, and the Netherlands Ministry of Health published a report allowing for only one kind of non mutilating form of circumcision (Cool 1994. In the United States, Representative Patricia Schroeder introduced a bill in 1996 proposing abolition of female circumcision in the United States(Lane and Rubberiest 1996. ) There have been policies banning the practice in Kenya, Egypt, and parts of Europe. The United Nations has also become involved in attempting to ban the practice. Social, religious, and traditional reasons for female circumcision have been questioned as the health risks of infatuation and excision are more widely understood. In 1997, the U. N. Announced a global campaign to eradicate the practice of FIG, and a growing number of refugee, women’s, and human rights organizations in Africa and around the world have called for its prohibition. But progress has been slow. Western reform movements are sometimes counterproductive, with Africans resisting the dictates of patronizing outsiders. Outlawing the practice had already been attempted by colonial governments in Africa during the first half of the century, provoking only resistance and protests. African governments have also been ineffective.

Kenya, Sudan, Burning Fast, the Ivory Coast, and Egypt have passed laws limiting the practice, but they are not enforced(Robinson 2005. ) The World Health Organization estimates it will take a minimum often years to reduce the prevalence of genital mutilation, and three generations to eradicate it. It will take time to transform awareness of a firmly entrenched ritual that is valued by the local culture but considered dangerous and demeaning by outsiders(Robinson References Assail, Abed; Shamanism, Naif; Burial, Yuan’s; Letter, Simms; Halifax, Butadiene; among Bedouin in Israel. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Cot 1995, IPPP.

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