African Tradition of Female Circumcision

A barbaric custom that is carried out in the name of religion

Female Circumcision, African Tradition, female genital mutilation

The African tradition of female circumcision is the ritual of the rite of passage from girlhood into the realm of womanhood. It is practiced by the indigenous communities, and by the Christian and the Muslims, alike. Judaism is the only faith that does not adhere to this tradition.

The prevalence of this custom dates back to the time of the Pharaohs in Egypt. The famous Jewish philosopher Philo explicitly mentions in his works that the Egyptian women are circumcised whereas the Jewish women are not. This goes on to prove beyond any doubt that female circumcision was practised before the advent of Christianity and Islam and therefore has no direct or indirect connection with both these religions, which is a common misconception among those who are against this practise and want to see it stopped.

Defended by the revivalists and referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM) by the progressive elements, the centuries old African tradition of female circumcision, is on the whole a painful, dangerous and a deleterious practice. It is much more painful than the male circumcision and has fatal consequences if the “cut” is incorrectly made, and it is more than often because it is the mid-wives in these communities who perform this surgical procedure rather than qualified doctors.

It is prevalent in almost the whole of the African continent. Many governments in Africa, Kenya for instance has declared the practice illegal but it still is carried out in the name of culture and religion. According to the Human Rights Watch Organization, it should be treated as child abuse and stringent laws with harsher punishment be imposed on individuals and communities found practising this barbarity in the name of tradition.

But it is all easier said than done, as this custom is deeply rooted in the communities wherein it is practised. The main obstacle in the eradication or complete elimination of this tradition is religion. So it is the responsibility of the religious leaders in these communities which sanction female circumcision to come forward and educate the masses that this practise is not sanctioned either by Christianity or Islam, but has its origins in the pagan traditions and customs.

As the practice of female circumcision is done secretly, not much statistical data is available, but whatever little research has been done in this field and statistical data obtained by institutions like the United Nations , the World Health Organization and non governmental organizations (NGOs) shows its widespread prevalence on the African continent. According to the scant data that is available concerning the practice of female circumcision or female genital mutilation varies from 98 percent in Egypt to only 5 percent in Guinea-Bissau.

There are also reported cases of female circumcision in Europe, United States of America, Latin America, Australia and Asia. In fact the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, has recently instituted a committee to track and to report the incidences of FMG, in order to put an end to this barbaric African tradition of female circumcision.

By: Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada

The Guardian

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