The topic I chose is female genital mutilation in Sudan. FGM is the term that refers to a variety of procedures that result in the complete or partial removal of the external female genitals. FGM is also a manner in which men have control over women’s sexual lives. As stated in the article from Landinfo, it is estimated that 89% of North Sudanese women between the ages of 15-49 have been subject to genital mutilation. Most women are subject to infibulation, which is the most severe. This involves complete or partial removal of all external sexual organs. Infibulation only leaves a small hole for urine and menstrual flow.
The origins of FGM are not really known but go back as far as 5th century B.C in Egypt. Today FGM is a cultural issue. Some consider it as a rite of passage. The reasons behind FGM today are to maintain cleanliness of sexual organs, decreasing vaginal secretions that contaminate the female body, abolish sexual desire, and to maintain virginity and prevent promiscuity. Although in America we view FGM as inhumane, many women are in favor of upholding the custom. In a survey of more than 5,000 women, 79% between the ages of 15-49 were in favor of upholding the custom.
In 1946, Sudan was the first African country to induce legislation against genital mutilation. The current penal code, however, does not cover genital mutilation. Its’ provisions on physical injury might cover genital mutilation. Since this, girls who have not undergone circumcision tend to be ridiculed and looked down upon. Although there was legislation against genital mutilation, not much enforcement has occurred. There are only a few examples of practitioners being arrested but that is all the information that is known.
Ellen Gruenbaum is an anthropologist who spent five years in Sudan. She learned that female circumcision is a strong cultural tradition. In her book, The Female Circumcision Controversy, she talks about how there is an acceptance and resistance to change. With the help of Islamic activists, Sudanese health educators, and educated African women there has been social and economic developments.