Let girls be girls »« The Girl Summit

Many girls remain at risk

The BBC reports on the Girl Summit, which is addressing FGM and child marriage.

Hosted by the UK government and children’s charity Unicef, the summit is being attended by international politicians, campaigners including the Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, and women who have undergone FGM.

The summit is also looking at ways to end forced marriage.

‘Big challenge’

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, said the situation was improving but many girls remained at risk.

“The fact that 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the coming years clearly means that we have a big challenge on our hands,” she said.

Priscilla Karim, who was forced to undergo FGM in Sierra Leone aged nine, described her ordeal.

She said: “I felt the worst pain of my life and a heavy object sitting on my chest and I just passed out.

“It’s like a taboo, they don’t tell you about it. You cannot tell anybody.”



  1. forestdragon says

    I imagine the ‘heavy object’ was either shock from the trauma or one of the people there holding her down. Horrible.

    All those idiots out there who compare male circumcision with FGM make me furious; I did manage to make one shut up and think when I told him that only the first, least extreme type is (roughly) comparable. He rather winced when I told him that in the case of most other types, he should imagine getting the head of his penis cut off completely. Don’t know if he was ultimately convinced, but at least he started thinking.

  2. Tessa says

    30 Million. That number is frightening and “big challenge” gets the award for the understatement of the year.

  3. Ed says

    Yea, any of it is bad but the most extreme forms are on the level of stuff the most depraved serial killers and professional torturers have come up with, but automatically done to half the population as a “custom” instead of a few select victims.

    Nothing anywhere near that is done to males except maybe by the isolated psychopath. One can oppose male circumcision without claiming equivalence. There are more extreme forms of male circumcision in some tribal societies, not in that they take much more flesh, but in that it is done in public to adolescents as part of some initiation ceremony.

    As wrong as that is, it isn’t equivalent because though terribly painful, it’s an initiation into manhood and rights that come with it, still isn’t nearly as painful or dangerous as female circumcision and it doesn’t eliminate the ability to enjoy sex.

  4. Omar Puhleez says

    forestdragon @#1

    “: He rather winced when I told him that in the case of most other types, he should imagine getting the head of his penis cut off completely. …”
    In order to establish the male equivalent of FGM, it is first necessary to establish what FGM is designed to do.
    For a start, is not an arbitrary permanent marking of the body to indicate that the individual so marked has passed through one of life’s stages. The arbitrariness is seen in the fact that the openly visible markings can involve circatrices (cutting to scar), eg on the chest, cutting off the male foreskin, deliberate knocking out of a front tooth (usually an incisor) tattooing, being given the right to wear certain articles of clothing, ornaments etc.
    The object of (non-open, non-visible) FGM is to control the sexual behaviour of young women by making the targeted behaviour as non-pleasurable and aversive as possible. This is why the clitoris (female equivalent of the whole penis) is hacked off and why the labia majora are cut and then the wound pinned or sewn such as to make the resulting scar tissue close the opening of the vagina down to as small a size as possible. (This is held by some believers to improve the experience enjoyed by the male in the sex act.) But one consequence is chronic infection and problems with urination.
    To imagine the male equivalent of FGM, we have to design a procedure with the same objectives. So how could male orgasm be prevented, the sex act made painful or otherwise aversive, and urination fraught with difficulty and risk? We have to remember that the objective of FGM is to make sexual stimulation and orgasm impossible, thus reducing the likelihood of promiscuity, while at the same time both increasing male gratification and still allowing childbirth. The equivalent procedure carried out on a male would have to result in no possibility of sexual arousal or orgasm, and would have to make urination difficult and subject to infection as well.
    Yes, excision (cutting off) of the glans (head) of the penis would be the least extreme type. More commonly it would be the excision of the entire penis.
    One conceivable operation would involve cutting the foreskin off the penis, and at the same time cutting a piece out of the the scotum (the male equivalent of the labia majora) and then fastening the cut end of the penis to that so as to form a graft. This operation would make urination and intercourse difficult and painful, and open the way for chronic infection, just as FGM does in women. For good measure, small foreign bodies such as thorns and wood splinters could be driven in underneath the skin of the penis to act as permanent irritants, but particularly irritating during intercourse.
    Full elimination of the possibility of male orgasm would be achieved by removal of the prostate gland. After which, impotence.
    Ignorant bastards who try to convince others that FGM is about equal to male circumcision need stopping.

  5. Tessa says

    Well Omar, I certainly could’ve done without that. But I may refer anybody who thinks it’s a good idea to use “MGM” seriously to your comment.

  6. Ed says

    4. (John Morales)

    Wow! That is pretty awful if non-consensual; which it is if it’s a young man’s price for full membership into the isolated tribe he was born into. But it probably leaves most sexually sensitive tissue functional if not necessarily intact, so still not on the level of FGM, and as another contributor pointed out, the goal was never control of male sexuality.

    Strangely, this photo brings back fond memories of a friend and neighbor of mine years ago who was obsessed with penis modification, but only had the courage to get several piercings which looked scary enough. He had a bunch of videos of things like that picture though–all featuring consenting adult body modification fanatics.

    His “hobby” made him sort of a neighborhood folk hero along with several other eccentricities like dinner time conversations about his adventures working at the local hospital morgue and encyclopedic knowledge of the most obscure music, books and art.

    Fortunately, as your post and the article pointed out, compulsory extreme male mutilation is dying out and was probably never all that common worldwide. The interference with fertility alone had to have contributed greatly to its decline.

  7. quixote says

    Even the least extreme form of cutting is not equivalent to male circumscision. Yes, in both cases the foreskin or equivalent is removed, but there’s a difference between the glans and the clitoris. They both have the same number of nerve endings, which means that in the clitoris they’re much denser. Removing protection from the glans is rather like exposing the inside of the cheek. Decidedly bad. But removing the protection from the clitoris is like cutting off an eyelid.

  8. Anoia says

    First post and you change the subject to MGM. -_-

    To add to what @ John Morales #4 linked:

    @ Omar Puhleez #5:

    This is why the clitoris (female equivalent of the whole penis) is hacked off and why the labia majora are cut and then the wound pinned or sewn such as to make the resulting scar tissue close the opening of the vagina down to as small a size as possible. (This is held by some believers to improve the experience enjoyed by the male in the sex act.) But one consequence is chronic infection and problems with urination.”

    You make it sound like that is the only type of FGM that exists. This is not the case. Type III FGM is preformed in 15% of the cases.

    Also, when the clitoris is removed, what is removed is the outer part, the clitoris itself is much larger than that. This is probably the reason why women with FGM can experience sexual pleasure:

    IMO, because MGM in western countries is type I and preformed on babies by doctors, is why it doesn’t seem such a big deal to most people. In other countries, i.e. south africa it is preformed much later and by laymen with outcomes much more comparable to FGM. FGM preformed at baby age by a doctor is done in i.e. Malaysia (also type I).

    Anyway, what I wanted to say is that when you look closely not only do FGM and MGM look very alike the arguments are also the same:
    I always hate to read people playing reverse opression olympics (…but look this is so much worse!). Always sounds like “dear muslimah” to me. :/ I have no problem to consider both barbaric.

    Sorry for that many links.

  9. quixote says

    Anoia, go look up a good anatomy text. The visible part of the clitoris, about the size of a small pea, is equivalent to the glans. The foreskin is equivalent to the covering around the head of the clitoris. Both of these, not just the foreskin, together with much of the labia minora, are removed in FGM. The internal part of the clitoris is equivalent to the shaft of the penis.

    When I say equivalent, I mean developmentally equivalent. They’re derived from the same embryonic organ and just grow into different shapes.

    No FGM is not remotely equivalent to MGM.

  10. Omar Puhleez says

    quixote @#10: “…FGM is not remotely equivalent to MGM.”
    It is hard to see how it could be otherwise. As far as I am aware, the aims of male circumcision (‘MGM’) are firstly to signify group identity and belonging, and secondly hygiene: (possible) reduction both of infection and particularly the risk of contraction of sexually transmitted disease (STD).
    Female ‘circumcision’, or more accurately female genital mutilation (FGM) cannot possibly confer any health benefits at all, though I am sure those in favour of it would argue that as it is designed to prevent sexual arousal and pleasure, it must have an overall effect of reducing STD rates.
    But it is a genuine, harmful and deliberate mutilation parts of the female reproductive system, with no possible health benefit for the victim, and definite harm in all cases; to a greater or lesser extent.

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