FGM in the Sudan

FGM is known as Female Genital Mutilation.  I first started learning about FGM from a book I had to read for a social science course called Half the Sky.  According to this book, FGM is a process where female genitals are cut or a female circumcision.  The intention of FGM is to, “reduce a girl’s sexual desire, curb promiscuity, and ensure that daughters will be marriageable.”  Often times the procedure takes place with no medical training of the person performing the procedure such as a girl’s mother.  The tool used is just a knife or razor blade and the girl receives no anesthetic.  In places such as the Sudan the most extreme cases of FGM are performed.  According to Half the Sky, the authors say in these regions the entire genital area is “cleaned up, by snipping away the clitoris, labia, and all external genitalia.  This creates a large raw wound, and the vaginal opening is sewn up with a wild thistle.”  The book also notes that once this is done the legs can also be tied together so that the wound can properly heal.  This is known as infibulation.  The next extreme part is when the female is married her husband is allowed to cut open the sealed part so she can have intercourse.  This seems very extreme to many of us, but it is a part of their culture such as foot binding was to the Chinese.

Work to fight against FGM was started back in the 1970’s by the United Nations but there was many repercussions against it because the people didn’t like outsiders interfering with their culture.  One group called Tostan, founded by Molly Melching, has lead to the best results to ending FGM.  The program works on encouraging the villagers to talk about health risks and human rights.  This “soft shell” approach works to have the villagers make their own choices regarding FGM.


Kristof, Nicholas D., and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky. New York: Vintage Books, 2009.

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