The practice of female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, occurs throughout the world, but it is most common in Africa. Female genital mutilation is a tradition and social custom to keep a young girl pure and a married woman faithful. In Africa it is practiced in the majority of the continent including Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mozambique and Sudan. It is a cross-cultural and cross-religious ritual, which is performed by Muslims, Coptic Christians, Protestants, Catholics and members of various indigenous groups. Female genital mutilation is usually performed on girls before they reach puberty. It is a procedure where either part or the entire clitoris is surgically removed leaving a reduced or total lack of sexual feeling. This procedure is an attempt to reduce the sex drive of women, making them less likely to be sexually active before marriage or engage in extra-marital affairs. Although this procedure can be seen as a means to control a woman's sexuality, the act of female circumcision determines the gender identity of women. A circumcised woman is a virgin, ready for marriage and to bear children for her husband, "Girls who are infibulated will probably not find husbands. In most cases they will become outcasts." Female genital mutilation is not a new practice. In fact circumcised females have been discovered among the mummies of ancient Egyptians. A Greek papyrus dated 163 BC refers to operations performed on girls at the age they received their dowries. A Greek geographer reported the custom of circumcision of girls he found while visiting Egypt in 25 BC. In Africa female circumcision has been reported in at least twenty-six countries and can be viewed as a public health problem "because of its wide geographic distribution, the number of females involved and the serious complications caused by the operation." Female genital mutilation is practiced in three major... [continues]
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