Barbarism Revisited



“What is done to children, they will do to society”- Karl. A. Menninger

I first came upon this quote while going through a book the title of which I have forgotten. The book was written by a girl who had been circumcised when she was young. This book  narrated the trauma inflicted upon her . At that time, I had no idea about circumcision.(cutting the female genital). It is when I read about it now that I realized how ghastly a thing it is. The worst part is that more than 80 per cent of the people that I talked to were oblivious of female circumcision.


Shell-Duncan states that the term female circumcision is a euphemism for a variety of procedures for altering the female genitalia. Female circumcision, also termed as female genital mutilation, involves people surgically altering the genitals of young girls and women, usually in a very painful and unhygienic manner. The procedure causes great harm to their health and sometimes even leads to death due to the shock associated with it. Further delving into the details of the procedure, the least severe forms of the operation involve cutting of a small part of the clitoral prepuce (“hood”), which is quite similar to the removal of foreskin in male circumcision. What is done is infact  more gory and macabre involving cutting, pricking or partial removal of the clitoris. Full clitoridectomies are more severe forms of surgery that include removal of prepuce, the clitoris and usually most or part of the labia minora or inner lips. Paranoiac circumcision is the gravest of all and involves removal of all the external genitalia and infibulations or stitching together of the vulva. After healing, what remains is a perfectly smooth skin and a tiny opening which is again preserved by a painful insertion of a small object. The size of the opening left is extremely small, making the first sexual intercourse extremely difficult or nearly impossible. In the process, the rupture or cutting of the scar tissue near the gap becomes necessary.


However terryfying the written account may sound, it is much more dreadful and ghastly for those who have to suffer. Their trauma is almost unheard of and leaves them with a scar, not just physical but psychological as well, which takes a lifetime to heal. There are appalling health risks involved with it. The infection of the wound is common when unsterilized instruments are used or when cleanliness is not meticulously attended to. Health workers say that the operation is often carried out in insanitary conditions. Razor blades, scissors, kitchen knives and even pieces of glass are used, often on more than one girl, which increases the risk of infection. Anesthesia is rarely used. Some girls die as a result of hemorrhaging, septicemia and shock. It can also lead to long-term urinary and reproductive problems.
Female circumcision is carried out in western and southern Asia, the Middle East and with the greatest incidence in large parts of Africa. However, it has been found that it is not limited to these regions only and a number of cases have been reported in North America, South America and Australia.

Why do parents, who love their children, perpetrate a torture as heinous as circumcision on them? I am always intrigued by this question. ‘Mutilation’ is the term considered accurate for a cadaverous process as this.
If we look into the reasons given to justify circumcision, we will notice that the main reason amongst them is the maintenance of cleanliness and good health. Apparently, this can be the justification sought by the educated folks. However, such a justification is entirely unacceptable coming from a society which uses razor blades for the process and leaves the wound to bleed openly. The other reasons provided are prevention of promiscuity as it makes the sexual intercourse an extremely painful process and preservation of virginity. They also include improvement of male sexual performance and pleasure and pursuance of aesthetics. However, girls who have not been circumcised are considered "unclean" in many cultures, and can be treated as harlots by other women.

Justifications as absurd and bizarre as these are clandestinely promoting this gruesome and evil act. The biggest obstacle in curbing it is that very few people are aware of it. It is more prevalent in the African countries. But we should not conclude from this that lack of literacy and development are the reasons behind prevalence of this practice. This is because this practice has been cited in parts of North America and Australia as well.   It is hard and probably impossible to understand why parents would let their three year old suffer such trauma. Yet, the horror associated with female circumcision definitely calls for an immediate and invigorating response.

Vibhuti Rathore

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