Lou Barbero Barbero 1

Professor Garber

Hm 46

March 5th

The Argument against Female Circumcision

Female circumcision is an operation done in many of the Arab countries and is an

example of how woman change their bodies in order to conform to society. There are

many aspects to this practice such as medical, religious and psychological. Very few

people in these countries will ever say anything on the matter, even if they object.

Speaking of issues regarding women and sex in these countries is a taboo. One

woman, Nawal El Saadawi, a medical doctor who later became Egypt's Director of

Public Health was brave enough to come forward. The fact that she did ultimately lead to

dismissal from her position and actual imprisonment. Her writings are forbidden from

many of the Arab countries that practice female circumcision. In a selection from The

Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World (1980), she explains her argument

against female circumcision and retells some interviews she had with women who

underwent the operation.

El Saadawi goes into detail telling about the procedure that the girls underwent in

her culture, usually around the age of seven or eight. The local midwife called the daya,

would show up to perform the operation. In most cases two women members of the

family would hold the girl by her thighs to expose her genitals and to prevent struggling.

Then the daya would proceed to cut of the clitoris of the girl with a sharp razor. One of

the women El Saadawi interviewed explained "the daya sat between these two women,

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holding a sharp razor in her hand which she used to cut off the clitoris." (Nawal El

Saadawi 170)

Although El Saadawi claims there are no advantages to this operation, many

people tend to disagree. One claim made by people in favor of female circumcision is

that by minimizing sexual desire, a girl is more likely to stay a virgin. Studies show that

by removing the clitoris, sexual desire is drastically decreased. "A married woman

admitted that during intercourse with her husband she had never experienced the

slightest sexual enjoyment?" El Saadawi recounts about a women who was circumcised

at six years old. (172) In most customs, circumcision is a religious procedure. Many

Religions practice both male and female circumcision. El Saadawi disagrees saying "If

religion came from God, how it order man to cut off an organ created by Him as long as

that organ is not diseased or deformed". (178)

The author explains the many negative effects that can be caused by this

operation, both physical and psychological. Some of these effects even led to death.

Hemorrhaging is caused by deep cuts made by the daya. The daya cuts

deep to maintain that none of the clitoris is left behind and no sexual pleasure can be

found. There are also many inflammatory problems caused because the daya does not

know of asepsis. As for short-term effects, the women will undergo severe pain for at

least a few days after the operation. In an interview with El Saadawi a women recounted:

"I had severe body pains, and remained in bed for several days, unable to move.

The pain in my external organs led to retention of urine. Everytime I wanted to

urinate the burning sensation was so bad I could not bring myself to pass

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water?" (171)

There has also been much in El Saadawi's work to prove that there is much psychological

damage done, especially in the area of sexual shock. This sexual shock lead to great

fridgety making it almost impossible for a woman to ever enjoy sex. Neurosis is another

long-term effects of the operation. (El Saadawi 171)

Egyptian women undergo such a strict upbringing that no one will object, or

admit to anything related to sex. The girls are told all their lives that this operation will

preserve their honor. One women recounted "It was said that a girl who did not undergo

this operation was liable to be talked about by people, her behavior would become bad,

and she would start running after man?" (El Saadawi 171) It has also been argued that

the clitoris is unimportant to reproduction and therefore unimportant to women. "The

clitoris however, is an organ neglected by medicine, just as it is ignored and disdained

by society." (El Saadawi 171) It seems according to El Saadawi's research that

educated families are beginning