FGM in Sudan

Female Genital Mutilation, also known as FGM,is a common practice amongst Somalian and Sudanese women of cutting female genital parts. This forced procedure is actually practiced all over the world, especially Africa, mainly Sudan. According to LandInfo, studies show that 86 percent of the female population had been subjected to genital mutilation prior to the age of ten. (LandInfo) FGM leads to bleeding and pain during sexual intercourse, infertility, and even death. Female Genital Mutilation originated as far back as 5th Century B.C. They believed that it promoted good hygiene and that it would make sense to be circumcised Sudanese men liked for their women to be circumcised.

In an article describing the trauma of FGM, a young girl explained her taunting experience going through the procedure. She says, “The stranger told me to take off my underwear, and I told he no. She said to me, “You have to” and before I knew what was happening she cut me, and I started screaming.” These cultural practices were not optional and it is actually respected custom across the east African country.

In 2008, the National Organization for Women passed resolution to end FGM. Another organization that had a big effect on stopping FGM was the Babikar Scientific Studies Association on Women Studies. Babikar was the first non-governmental organization that made a significant impact on stopping FGM from happening.  Ellen Gruenbaum, an anthropologist from Cortland, New York, takes an insider and outsider approach to the situation. With the many years she spent in Sudan, Ellen concentrated on the attitudes and complexes of the individuals who practice FGM and those that wanted to end it.

She mentioned that, “ the criticisms of outsiders are frequently simplicstic and fail to appreciate the diversity of cultural contexts, the complex meanings and the conflicting responses to change”. She believed that people did not understand that is is difficult for some families to decide whether to follow the normal customs or risk changing these traditions.


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



This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Devin Jay-Garfein says:

    I think that the medical anthropologist used the ethnomedical approach. The women who were forced into the surgery and the people on the outside of the culture were not in agreement with each other. She noticed that people from both sides of the argument were not fully understanding each other. She noticed that the critics were very simple with their opinions and did not recognize the vast cultural difference. In Sudan and Somalia, the locations that the anthropologist was, there are major culture clashes to the United States. The women are very displeased with having this invasive surgery, but they do not have the same voice and power that women hold in the United States. This puts pressures on the families. They want to uphold traditions, but they do not want to hurt their families. This is what the anthropologist is seeking to explain.

    I think that applying medical anthropology to this cause made a huge difference. Getting people to understand the negative effects that it has on women created a better understanding of how important this issue is. For topics that are not always easy to talk about understanding them makes it easier to contribute. The National Organization for Women passed a resolution to end these surgeries. They were able to bring awareness to enough people to pass a resolution. With out anthropologists to bridge the gaps between cultures this may have never happened.

  2. Delisa Quayson says:

    There is definitely a lot of cultural information that comes into play in this global health issue in Somalia and Northern Sudan. The practice in itself is steeped in cultural beliefs and shows a status of wealth. In the article, it mentioned that the main argument for the continued implementation of this practice despite continued opposition is to keep the women chaste until marriage. There was also a difference in the number of females that had undergone the procedure between christians and muslims. The approach to studying and recording data was most definitely ethnomedical. There was the mention of unqualified personnel carrying out the procedure. Less than 1%, the article stated, of medical doctors perform this surgery.
    There is also the suggestion of social status that comes along with having the procedure done. Payments are made before, during and after to ensure best service is received and even though specific amounts were not mentioned, it appears as though being able to afford to get the procedure done indicates a persons or families wealth which gives them a good image socially. I believe that the ecological approach was also used because the researchers considered because the people who had migrated from other countries that did not have any history of the practice began to observe it too. I believe that did so to adapt to the social environment they found themselves in. Some of the women that were questioned also gave the impression that they felt pressure to have the procedure done because they believed it was need to get married. They accepted to be mutilated to fit in and hopefully get married.

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