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