Female circumcision, or the partial or whole removal of the external female genitalia, has been practiced in areas of Africa for centuries, typically as part of a rite of passage preparing young girls for womanhood and marriage.
Female circumcision, which is frequently performed without anesthetic under sterile settings by lay practitioners with little or no knowledge of human anatomy or medicine, can result in death or chronic health problems, as well as significant pain. Despite these grave dangers, its adherents regard it as an essential component of their cultural and ethnic identity, and others regard it as a religious requirement.
Opponents of female genital cutting, on the other hand, argue that the practice is harmful to women's health and well-being.
Some people view female circumcision as a ritualized form of violence against women and child abuse, a violation of their human rights.
At least 28 countries north of the equator in the middle of Africa today practice female circumcision; neither southern Africa nor the Arabic-speaking countries of North Africa, with the exception of Egypt, practice it. Despite the fact that no religion mandates it, female circumcision happens among Muslims, Christians, Animists, and one Jewish sect.
Although there are three primary forms of genital excision, methods differ greatly. The clitoris is amputated in the first procedure, called a clitoridectomy, in some cases completely, whereas in the second procedure, called an excision, both the clitoris and the labia minora are cut out.
The third type, infibulation, is the most severe: The labia majora are cut or scraped away to create raw surfaces after the clitoris and the labia minora have been removed. These raw surfaces are then kept in contact until they heal, either by stitching the edges of the wound or by tying the legs together.
The urethra and the majority of the vaginal aperture are covered by scar tissue as the wounds mend, leaving a tiny gap for the passage of menstrual blood and urine.
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