FGM in Sudan

Female genital mutilation, otherwise known as FGM, occurs in about 89% of North Sudanese women. Usual mutilation is to remove all external sexual parts and surgical closure of the vagina takes place. Culturally, female genital mutilation is seen as a symbol of decency, dignity, and fertility in marriage, before marriage, and upon sexual maturation, depending on the area of the population in question. FGM can also be used, sometimes, as a mark of a young girl entering adulthood as a women (which usually is determined as before the age of 10). Because of the high incident rate, and because women in Sudan are viewed as inferior, women usually experience social pressure to undergo the FGM surgeries. Uncircumcised women are viewed as unclean and hyper-sexual because they have not undergone the painful FGM procedure. Women often undergo the FGM surgery more than once in their life to re-signify their dignity and cleanliness in their sexuality and marriage. Usually, the FGM process occurs after each episode of child birth to tighten the vagina for better martial sex for the husband.

Sudan was the 1st African country to regulate FGM with law. Currently, legislation only permits less invasive forms of the procedure, however, the full procedure is still done traditionally. Usually, the traditional procedure can still take place because only about 1% of these surgeries are done by government regulated doctors, usually the FGM procedure is done by a community midwife. Doctors can be arrested if found to be practicing FGM.

Current legislation and an anthropological idea of FGM is seen in the article “Sociocultural dynamics of Female genital Cutting, written by Ellen Guernbalm, fights to show how FGM is an example of a misunderstood cultural element to the African community. She is trying to find the connection between how communities determine what is a good ritual and what is a bad ritual to keep, and why the community chose to keep the ritual alive in the current cultural society (article can be found at: http://web.stcloudstate.edu/edscheel/FGM%20and%20Circumcision/sociocultural%20dynamics%20of%20female%20genital%20cutting.pdf)


“Female genital mutilation in Sudan and Somalia.” Landinfo 10 (2007). Accessed August 6, 2014. http://www.landinfo.no/asset/764/1/764_1.pdf.

GRUENBAUM, ELLEN. “Socio-cultural dynamics of female genital cutting: Research findings, gaps, and directions.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 7, no. 5: 429-41. Accessed August 6, 2014. http://web.stcloudstate.edu/edscheel/FGM%20and%20Circumcision/sociocultural%20dynamics%20of%20female%20genital%20cutting.pdf.


This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Kelly Delorme says:

    I was really surprised to read all of the statistics about FGM, and I was particularly surprised at how little impact the laws regulating FGM have had. After reading the article by Ellen Gruenbaum, it made much more sense to me because FGM is more of an unmonitored cultural ritual, rather than a medical practice. Ellen Gruenbaum took and ethnomedical approach to studying FGM in Sudan. Taking an ethnomedical approach allowed Gruenbaum to understand the cultural and social factors that contribute to the continuity of FGM in Sudan. Gruenbaum explains that simply creating laws against FGM is not enough to stop it because of the cultural values that lead to the practice in the first place. Approaching FGM from an ethnomedical approach allowed Gruenbaum to come up with a more comprehensive program for stopping FGM that acknowledges Sudan’s cultural values. By apply anthropology, Gruenbaum was able to contribute to a better understanding of this global health problem. One really important point that she discovered via an ethnomedical approach is that the Sudanese people see FGM as a socially valued standard of beauty. It is clear that women’s rights are being violated, but these women may also feel dirty and masculine if they do not undergo FGM. Using an ethnographic approach, Gruenbaum was able to discover that any programs that are developed to stop FGM will need to address the cultures standards of beauty, and the program must empower women in order to gain acceptance of the abolition of FGM.

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